artAndy Warhol is everywhere. Even a cursory look at current pop culture trends reveals the fingerprints of the enigmatic artist who, all these years since his passing, could safely be called an art and culture prophet. His foretelling of the “15 minutes of fame” phenomenon is truer now, given the onslaught of pseudo-celebrities being handed a ticking clock at the 14 min. 59 sec. mark for achievements as trivial as posting a video on YouTube. His influence reaches into music, with Top-40 artists like Lady GaGa and Christina Aguilera releasing records with a pop-art appeal; and politically minded, critically acclaimed visual artists like the UK’s Banksy seem like they’d be right at home in Warhol’s Factory.

When event coordinators were creating an overall theme for the third annual Ventura Fashion Week, it seemed fitting to use an “everything old is new again” concept: they’d turn Red Brick Gallery into a time capsule, teleporting revelers to the decade that continues to influence both fashion and the arts, the decade that Warhol ruled, the 1960s.

Acknowledging Warhol’s influence on the fashion world also tips a hat to the global artistic community, bringing to mind the alterna-fuzziness, peace, love and patchouli of the era. The idea is that fashion and shopping brings people together. And one thing that definitely distinguishes Ventura’s shopping district is its sense of community.

Catherine Nation, owner of Bhavantu in Ojai, says her mom is a shopper with a great style, and though she may be scaling back some, she loves to have the hands-on experience of community that shopping brings. “Connecting with people she has shopped with for years, having those conversations and connectedness with others that one cannot find [while] shopping behind a computer screen, e-mailing, texting, not really connecting.”

While some may question the validity of an event that celebrates fashion in a time when jobs are being lost daily, participants in Ventura Fashion Week are certain that fashion is, in fact, a means to a balanced sense of well-being.

“Fashion is such a personal expression of one’s personality, emotional and mental state,” says designer Lindsay Miller, who is participating in the “Green Piece” portion of the show on Friday. “Because of that, it can make you feel good about yourself and elevate your self-esteem. So no matter how much people are affected by tough economic times, they still desire to feel good about the way they look.”

It seems that the economy has not put a damper on preparations for this year’s festivities, either. Event coordinator Brian Bourassa, says that despite tough economic times, everyone has risen to the occasion. “We really pushed people to think outside the box and come up with thrifty ways to create clothing that is fashionable, but still affordable,” he says.

The event, which benefits AIDS Project Ventura, includes a kickoff party on Wednesday, Feb. 25, at CandleLight with music by Swing Cheese. On Thursday, Feb. 26, fashion fanatics can whet their appetites for the main event by viewing clips of last year’s Cirque de Couture fashion show and an Andy Warhol film.

Friday, Feb. 27, locals will be able to experience the Green Piece show, an evening of earth-friendly attire created by local artists and designers, including outfits from featured boutiques Bhavantu and Korazon. Several performances, including those by local drum groups, will enliven the catwalk. Keeping the environment in mind, a reconstructed runway show will present original offerings from Little City Designs by Ian and Mia as well as Cobalt by Megan and Sky.

New this year are ArtFits, wearable fashion pieces created from a variety of materials by Ventura artists of all ages.

Saturday, Feb. 28, the Pop T’arts show will wrap things up with a fun and funky tribute to Warhol and his Factory featuring two runway shows of designs from local boutiques, including Tiki Lounge and Camouflage, shoes by Wild Planet, dance and musical performances, look-a-likes and Drag pageantry.

“Ventura has a variety of amazing artists of all mediums,” says artist and Red Brick Gallery owner Jennifer Livia. “Clothing is just another sector of the arts. Ventura is known for its arts, and we are hoping to expose the community to the variety of clothing creations and creators that we are fortunate enough to have. Whether it be clothing, fine art or food, Ventura is a place full of unique places and people.”   

Both fashion shows start at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 25 and 26.  Tickets will be pre-sold at ArchiTexture Salon, 22 S. Ventura Ave., and at the door for each event. For more information, visit www.venturafashionweek.com.

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