When We Clamor for Glamour
Krisjan Klenow’s Steeling Pompeii fashion show on Saturday night
Men can dress up for weddings and funerals and concerts at Disney Hall, but they’re unlikely to play dress-up the way that girls and women can. So when Krisjan Klenow says “Fashion is fantasy,” it’s rather clear that it’s the fairer sex she’s referring to.
“I’m all about making a woman look perfect,” she explains, “and about creating a character, exploring a woman’s character.”
Klenow is many things – stylist, photographer, jeweler – and they’re coming together this Saturday, Feb. 7, with her Steeling Pompeii Fashion Show & Trunk Sale. It’s being held from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Croatian Cultural Center in San Pedro.
Her own designs
Krisjan Klenow lived in Hermosa Beach for 22 years, and during that time, roughly the first half of the 1990s, she opened and ran Oriel Studio, which was located above the former Bijou Theatre. While there she created fantasy portraits for women, she says, “everything from Victorian baby to goth femme fatale.”
She was later a member of the Redondo Beach Art Group and participated in the Power of art, the organization’s yearly showcase of original work.
“I started making jewelry in 2010,” Klenow says. “I went to the 99-cent store and picked up a reel of gardening wire, galvanized steel wire, and I said to myself, I can make something out of this – and here I am going into my fifth year.”
It hardly needs saying, but the designs are her own.
“Basically I make every link by hand,” Klenow says. “These are all my original patterns. Every link is handmade by me, no pre-made chains, and I don’t use machines or anything like that. I came up with the name ‘Steeling Pompeii’ because I was using galvanized steel wire and ‘Pompeii’ because I was [paying tribute to] antiquity, to that kind of Old World craftsmanship.”
Her slogan, she adds, is “30 feet of wire you’ll want to get caught in.”
“After a year-and-a-half,” Klenow continues, “I started [showing] at Miramar Park, at the Art Walk there (near Torrance Beach).” She was introduced to the San Pedro Art Association, and began displaying her jewelry at the gallery located on the waterfront at Ports O’Call. This is how she met John Stinson, the group’s president, and his wife Debbie Sue Stinson. Klenow soon began working for John Stinson as a photo assistant, and meanwhile her husband, Cristian, started producing comedy shows in town, including a pair at the Warner Grand Theatre.
“I really like being in San Pedro,” Klenow says. “There’s a big art presence down here and it’s growing.”
The owner of Dramatique, a boutique on Sixth and Center, began allowing Klenow to use the space as a photo studio after hours. This has led to an enterprise she calls Glamour After Dark that offers “Alternative Portraits,” where some of her clients resemble “broads” or “dames” on the mock covers of 1950s noir paperbacks.
Hitting a glam slam
“It’s about glamor,” Klenow says, “but it’s also about exploring that playful side of yourself, all those different parts of your personality. You can be whatever you want. It’s like ‘big girl Barbie dress-up,’ and everybody for me is like a big, living doll.
“When I was a kid I hated playing with dolls – I wanted to be the doll. So it was all about dressing up. My mom was a model; there were a lot of artists in my family. My father’s a graphic designer. I sewed my own prom dress and so, between all of that, I just have a very strong sense of aesthetics and style.
“And then with this,” Klenow adds, referring to her jewelry, “this is like goddess wear. It’s like mermaid wear. From boots to a ball gown – that’s been my slogan the whole way. You can be glamorous every moment of your life. You can be a goddess every day.”
When women contact her, asking for a portrait that they can give to the man in their lives, Klenow advises them to wear their biggest and best smile (whatever else they wear or don’t wear is up to them). However, her portraits of women are not always so sweet and innocent and come-hither.
“I’ve always dealt with slightly menacing images of women,” she says, partly because men are intimidated by beauty, and partly because there’s the inner siren or femme fatale lurking within. Creating an image with jewelry, hairstyling, makeup, wardrobe and a background set, she explains, “is a way of telling a story about femininity. You can make her Joan of Arc or you can make her some cutthroat business executive. Women are multi-faceted, and they can be a lot of different people. God knows they juggle a lot of tasks. Women are very complicated.”
But for Klenow the bottom line is simple: “I like to make beautiful things.”
Graceful and seductive
On the morning that we arranged to meet, most of the models for Saturday’s event were present and trying on Klenow’s jewelry. They’re very pretty and elegant, these women, and will undoubtedly look striking in the outfits that Deena Gribben – stylist and owner of Deena’s Boutique Collection – will be providing. Debbie Sue Stinson, Senegence product representative for Lipsense, will demonstrate the wonders of this stay-on lip coloring that won’t transfer or kiss off, which could mean no more tell tale signs of lipstick on the collar – for better or worse.
Velvet Marshall’s large expressionist paintings are sure to provide a refined and aesthetically pleasing backdrop as each model descends the staircase and steps into view. Krisjan Klenow’s evening is coming together, and it’s looking good.
Steeling Pompeii Fashion Show and Trunk Sale takes place on Saturday, Feb. 7, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Croatian Cultural Center, 510 W. Seventh St., San Pedro. Tickets, $20 at the door, includes wine and cheese reception and runway fashion show. To RSVP call (310) 303-9849 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.