November 4, 2010

Election Day Fashion Flash Mob: “Voting Turns Me On!”

It’s 6:30 am on Election Day and ten girls are bustling around my art studio, trying on hand-made outfits, applying lipstick and teasing their hair. “How about, ‘Voting Turns Me On!’?” Angela asks, sharpie marker in one hand, blank protest sign in the other. The red vinyl carpet is rolled out on the paint-splattered cement floor and Lula is practicing her runway walk and poses.

We are fAction: Fashion for Social Action, a group of San Francisco ladies who use our DIY fashion as a medium for creating change in our community. Today we are hitting the streets, bright and early, as a glamorous reminder that the future of democracy lies in the hands of the voters. The idea of a Fashion Flash Mob—bringing high-fashion runway shows into unexpected public spaces– has been bouncing around in my mind for months, but today we have the perfect reason to turn heads and make a splash.

Marching down the streets of San Francisco in the first light of morning, from Dolores Park to Mission Street, we shout at passersby, “Don’t forget to vote!” and they smile and laugh. Some ask to take our pictures, while others point out their “I voted!” stickers proudly.

We begin at the underground platform of the 16th Street/Mission BART station….a mysterious stranger in a hat presses PLAY on a boom box and unrolls a red carpet. One by one, girls from hidden corners and stairwells pose dramatically in a clustered group. Every model takes a stroll down the crimson runway, as Paparazzi (our photographer and videographer friends) snap footage of the spectacle and the awe-struck bystanders.

Each girl prominently displays her own unique message she chose to project to the world, signs ranging from “Creation Not Consumption,” “Make Sense, Not War,” and “Sit, Lie, Love, Vote!” That last sign was my own—a specific protestation to Proposition L, a bill that would make it illegal to sit or lie on any sidewalk in San Francisco. This seemingly inane proposition brought to the table by Mayor Gavin Newsom and select neighborhood associations, targets the homeless, mentally ill and day laborers throughout the city, and is a blatant attack on our civil liberties. To make the point that the Sit/Lie Proposition is ridiculous and unethical, the models sit at the end of the runway and sprawl out elegantly on the sidewalk. Yes, we are making a scene.

Our traveling Fashion Show Flash Mob continues on to the Powell Street trolley stop, the stairs of Union Square, the Financial District, the Pedestrian Pier, the Ferry Building, and on the BART train, bringing new poses, new energy, and inspiring new voters at each location. As we walk back to home base, the sun beating down on us, we are empowered. We are exhausted. We are proud to have expressed ourselves unabashedly and to have been a part of what makes this country tick. Now it’s our turn to go and vote…

*FINAL NOTE: Sadly, the Sit/Lie Proposition passed in San Francisco with 53% of the votes. But the battle isn’t over. We need to keep the dialogue going, educating people about the importance of our civil liberties. We need to reclaim fashion as a vehicle for self-expression, rather than as a tool of control by the consumer-culture. We need to keep our heads high, even though our country’s power structure is changing hands and the future is uncertain. We need to band together to create the kind of social movement that will lift our country up. We can do it! (Stay tuned for the video yet to come!!)

**All photographs by Sean Franzen and Jeremy Teresa Lewis. Coming soon: Video by Talbot Walker and Photographs by Anastasia Kuba.

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