Moda Operandi Refashioned: The Origins of Our Clothing

at Oakopolis. By DeWitt Cheng

Cassidy Hope Wright and Cory Gunter Brown's "Lace Pillow Lava Dress." Most everyone takes clothing for granted — from fashionistas and metrosexuals, who fastidiously ponder the semiotics of hems and cuffs, to the shopping-averse, who grab whatever comes to hand like Bullitt stocking up on frozen dinners. Some clothing creators, however, have rejected the industrial model with its pollution and exploitation, choosing instead to employ traditional methods and materials. On view at Oakopolis now is Re-Fashioned: The Origins of Our Clothing, a vastly instructive show of handmade women's clothing (sorry, guys!) manufactured in an earth-friendly manner by Angelina DeAntonis (Ocelot), Sasha Duerr (Permacouture), Cassidy Hope Wright and Cory Gunter Brown (The Moon), and India Flint (Watermarks). Duerr's conviction that "Over-consumption and toxic runoff from the clothing and textile industry have increased environmental and cultural degradation" has led her to gather all materials, including rainwater for dyeing, locally. Brown and Wright espouse "a new culture of clothing ... artful in design and responsible in production. Wear it, mend it, pass it down." The dresses, scarves, shrugs, and tunics on display here, in iwajime woodblock-dyed silk, Merino wool flannel, crepe de chine, alpaca, cashmere, rayon, and pineapple or bamboo ramie, prove that green fashion can be cool and beautiful.

Of special interest is the plant lore, dating back centuries or even millennia. Didactic tags, attached to each garment; ink drawings of seedpods; and real botanical samples show what an intimate connection our forebears had with nature. Mordants, substances used as chemical intermediaries between vegetable dyes and animal fibers such as silk, wool, alpaca, and cashmere, can include oak galls, acorns, staghorn sumac, rhubarb, oxalis, soy milk, urine, juniper needle ash, alum (aluminum sulfate), and iron (ferrous sulfate, as well as the tannins in coffee, black walnut, and eucalyptus). Vegetable dyes include such exotica as annatto, black walnut, Bohemian truffle, cutch (yellow from the Indian acacia tree), fustic, lac (reds and purples from the sticky, resinous secretion of lac beetles, farmed in Asia for lacquer as well), logwood, madder root (from the Middle East, yielding alizarin crimson), mint, myrobalan, nasturtium, Osage orange (named after an American Indian tribe), sandalwood, and weld. For those of us who have dyed only Easter eggs, it's an eye-opener. Reception May 7, 7-10pm. A Slow Fashion Basics workshop takes place Sautrday, May 15, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Refashioned: The Origins of Our Clothing runs through May 15 at Oakopolis Creativity Center (447 25th St., Oakland). 510-663-6920 or