The Thread Fashion & Lifestyle Show is chaos. More than 100 fashion designers battle to carve out their space in the main exhibition hall of the San Diego Aerospace Museum as clothes horses run rampant and models zip by, flaunting their scantily clad, impossible physiques. Thankfully, there's enough booze in the house to forget the sweltering heat of late June, sink into the pandemonium and have a grand ol' time.
Even amid the chaos, designer Lynn VanBrocklin's booth isn't hard to find. The creator of Lynn's Rags doesn't disappear easily into the crowd. She stays busy throughout the show; many people stop to inspect her work. Her designs are a mosaic of rainbow hearts, deep color contrasts and lots of frills. A teenager spots a black and white striped tank top and shows her friend. "That's so cute," the friend announces.
That stamp of approval means a lot to VanBrocklin. "When girls tell me they like my stuff, that's the biggest compliment," she says. "It just makes me so happy."
The 26-year-old designer wears a constant smile as she sits perched on a small chair surrounded by heaps of purses and clothes. VanBrocklin bears a striking resemblance to Tinkerbell with her platinum pixie-cut hair and petite size-even though she's wearing four-inch platforms. She dresses in bright, cartoon-like clothing and has several tattoos, including a pair of pink ribbons near her collarbone. It's a refreshing change from the hordes of 20-something Aberzombies.
"In high school, I felt like all the girls looked the same," VanBrocklin says. "They'd all be wearing the same shirt, except maybe in a different color. I loved going to the thrift store and buying something and then altering it. It was nice knowing that nobody would be able to find what I was wearing in the stores."
VanBrocklin taught herself to make clothes in high school and now works from home, creating and shipping out 30 to 50 items a week, thanks to word-of-mouth advertising and eBay. "I can just whip stuff up," she says with a giggle. "I get creative and chop things up and make them fit. I don't use patterns or do anything the traditional way-it's all by eye."
She describes the clothes she makes as "vintage with a modern twist."
"Vintage" because she draws much of her inspiration from her childhood-she digs the flowing blouses and short shorts her mom used to wear, and she fixates on cartoons characters from My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake. "Modern" because she does things her own way-if she finds bed sheets printed with a design she likes, she uses it as fabric.
"I hate going shopping and seeing that the only selection out there is the trend of the month," she says. "There's nothing unique about it. My clothes are an alternative to that."
VanBrocklin's clothing is an alternative to the high prices you'd pay at a mall, too. Her stuff often sells for less than $30 on eBay.
"That's my No. 1 thing," VanBrocklin explains.
Lynn's Rags (www.lynnsrags.com) is available in local boutiques like Hitch Couture and Rags and, luckily, VanBrocklin's fans don't have to worry about her packing up and hitting the bigger L.A. fashion scene anytime soon. She has unfinished business to attend to: getting San Diegans out of their beach-bum apparel.
"We basically have a lot of flip flops and tank tops here," complained VanBrocklin. "That's something that I want to see change."