Recession chic

This past weekend, local designers Angelina Mata and Elizabeth Ciarfeo joined together to debut spring lines and raise funds for the Artist Foundation. Mata, the creative director for Southtown’s “Art of Fashion” show, usually uses the Contemporary Art Month event at Blue Star as the forum for her designs. The textually reversed “Fashion is Art” featured some new twists — a champagne brunch and runway show at Radius, showcasing Mata’s clothing paired with newfound collaborator Ciarfeo’s jewelry — but kept up Mata’s close ties to the art world.

When the Artist Foundation asked Mata to join their cause, Mata said, “I was in full support, because I’m a local artist, too. Raising funds for emerging, aspiring local artists is vital to recognizing and developing our community talent.” Brother John Mata, a visual artist with a current show at Sala Diaz, provided the background music and the late Reginald Rowe’s work graced the walls.

It seemed fitting that even though the time and venue were so different from Mata’s past performances, the sentiment was still the same. Mata even referenced her Southtown past with a mini-retrospective of her last four collections, including the “pique-nique” collection. I fondly remember this black, red, and white series of cheeky, Marie Antoinette-inspired bustle gowns and aprons debuting in the reflection of Linda Pace’s mirrored igloo at Blue Star in 2006.

Inspired by the artist Raoul Dufy, a French Fauvist painter known for his vibrant use of color, Mata debuted a series of sporty separates in briliant candy hues — orange, cobalt, strawberry, even sherbert green. Paired with now ubiquitous leggings (Lindsay Lohan, I blame you), sturdy handbags, and funky hats that combined a traditional baseball visor and what appeared to be soft-serve ice cream in the form of chiffon, these pieces had a more urban ’80s feel than we’ve seen from Mata in the past. Elizabeth Ciarfeo’s chunky bubblegum-ball bracelets and necklaces were spot on. It was evident that the two friends work well together.

“I’ve known Elizabeth for a while and admire her aesthetic. When she asked me to collaborate, I said ‘Definitely!’ We paired jewelry to go specifically with each outfit,” said Mata.

Mata continued her whimsical, theatrical feel with several sheer lace and illusion dresses (bodysuit required!), detailed with flowers and paired with gardening gloves, elaborate silk floral hats, and — a personal favorite — Wellies, the thick rubber boots favored by British outdoor types. Unfinished seams lent a rock-’n’-roll presence and balanced the super-sweetness.

In my opinion, Mata’s best work will always be her exquisitely constructed “Reinvintage” look, taking inspiration from the lines of the ’20s, ’30s and early ’40s. Mata reminded us of her cloche hats, long coats, and fur and beaded trim from past collections, then took the fall/winter look into the future with new work in a similar vein.

Sunday’s runway also included a soft retro palette of pinks, browns, and purples, and small, delicate prints perfect for spring. Bias-cut evening gowns skimmed and floated, low waistlines and handkerchief hems were jaunty and fun, and a profusion of ruffles and lace were grounded by the strict construction of obi-style belts and edgy ankle boots. Ciarfeo’s jewelry highlighted whispery necklines and sleeves with monumental, deco-style minerals and gemstones. Feminine, wearable details included blouson sleeves, capelet collars, lounging sets, scooped necklines, and peplum hems.

I usually go with one of Mata’s evening gowns or maxidresses as the highlight — she manages to make elegant look so comfortable — but my pick of the collection broke with history this time. A chartreuse pantsuit with high-waisted, belled trousers and a snug, cropped jacket accented with military gray and navy stripes emphasized sunny and smart — two happy-making key words for spring. It’s ironic that “Depression chic” and all the glamor and hope it represented is making such a comeback: Mata has been doing it well for years.


Your can’t-miss fashion event this weekend also earns double workout points: It’s the 85th Annual Junior League San Antonio rummage sale, being held at four Goodwill locations. Proceeds support the organizations’ community outreach and education programming. Look for the Julia’s Attic boutique areas, where you can fight over the items donated by JLSA ladies. and for hours and store locations.

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