November 20, 2008

Marijke Rowland: Local designer finds joy over Anguish

It's not every day you get to dress a rock star. Modesto designer Tawny Holt recently sold several pieces of her one-of-a-kind clothing to Courtney Love, former frontwoman of Hole and widow of grunge pioneer Kurt Cobain.

It's not every day you get to dress a rock star.

Modesto designer Tawny Holt recently sold several pieces of her one-of-a-kind clothing to Courtney Love.

Yes, that Courtney Love. Former frontwoman of Hole and widow of grunge pioneer Kurt Cobain.

Holt co-founded and now runs Armour sans Anguish, a salvaged and recycled materials fashion line, out of her Modesto home. She sells her clothes through Queen Mab's in Modesto, retail and online shops across the county, as well as her Web site, armoursansanguish.com.

Last month, she saw a large order came through online and checked the buyer's name. It read: Courtney Love Cobain.

"At first, I didn't think it was real," said the 26-year-old. "I got all stalker about it and looked up the address online to figure out if it was her house."

A call to Love's assistant confirmed it was indeed the Love of rock 'n' roll fame. She bought five pieces, including dresses and T-shirts.

While Holt isn't sure how Love found her, she thinks it might have been through a photo spread in the September issue of Paper magazine.

The shoot was on sustainable eco design. All of Holt's clothing is made from vintage dresses, sweaters, pants, leggings and other items she recycles and then turns into "reconstructed couture." Every piece is unique and none are mass-produced.

Love bought one of the dresses featured in Paper. The only problem was the piece had been sent to another magazine, which went out of business and refused to return the dress. So Holt hired a lawyer.

"It took me $500 to get the $200 dress back, but Courtney Love wanted this dress," she said.

Her above-and-beyond effort seems to have been worth it because Love came back this month and bought another piece from Armour sans Anguish.

Holt's clothing has garnered other national interest, too. She has received calls from Teen Vogue and Glamour magazines. But the high-profile attention only further emphasizes the grass-roots nature of her business.

"They always ask, 'Who is your press contact?' 'Where is your showroom?' 'Let us see your look book,' " she said with a laugh. "I am a one-woman show; I don't have a press contact. All my pieces are one-of-a-kind, so I don't have a look book. My studio is a little room in my house."

But just because her operation is small doesn't mean she hasn't branched out. She has clothing in retail stores from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Washington, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, New York and Vermont.

Besides selling items on her own site, she has clothes on beklina.com, btcelements.com and philanthrofashion.com.

"I really try to make clothes that are beautiful outside of just being eco fashion," she said. "In (eco fashion), you can find woven hemp drawstring pants, but not a lot of girly party dresses. I like to say my clothes are more glamour, less granola."

Granola? No. Rock star? Hell, yeah.

Elsewhere around the Scene:

The new Aqua Lounge & Bistro wants to feed you.

The Modesto restaurant opened a week ago. While the bistro is up and running, the lounge is awaiting approval of its dance permit. The full bar is open for dinner.

The downtown nightspot, formerly the site of Aqua Shi, has dinner hours of 6 to 9:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 5 to 9:30 p.m. Saturdays. The bar serves food beyond the end of the restaurant's dining hours. The lounge is open until 2 a.m. Thursdays through Sundays.

Sunday dining is not available yet, but should be by the end of the month; hours will be 6 to 9:30 p.m.

A takeout and dine-in lunch schedule is in the works.

Management said a rescheduled grand-opening party will be announced in December. The initial opening in October was stalled by permit delays.

Call 238-0490 or visit myspace.com/aquamodesto .

And finally, after you work up a thirst with the Kottonmouth Kings on Saturday at the Fat Cat Music House & Lounge, dance it off with DJ Skribble.

DJ Skribble has worked on several MTV shows, including "Total Request Live." Also performing will be DJs 9T9 and Bobby Sanchez, among others.

The Pure 209 show starts at 10 p.m. Tickets are $10-$20. Call 524-1400 or visit pure209.com.

Bee entertainment writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or 578-2284. Read her blog SceneIt at thehive.modbee.com/sceneit.

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