Love and luster on Shakedown Street
Fashion designer Meghan Fabulous celebrates her collaboration with the Grateful Dead with an ESAW block party
by Alex Khatchadourian
Discovering the Grateful Dead was the moment that music and fashion came together for a teenage Meghan Fabulous.
While indulging in a routine after-school visit to her local record shop, the Dead’s Steal Your Face album artwork beckoned her from across the Orange County hangout. A self-proclaimed MTV girl, who was more into hair bands and heavy metal, she had never seen anything like the ubiquitous and single most recognizable red and blue skull – better known as a Stealie – that adorned the front of the band’s otherwise white album cover.
And although Fabulous snagged a tape single of “Touch of Grey,” and subsequently did not fall in love with the music, this moment within the four walls of Music Market was Fabulous’ initial gateway into hippie culture.
From patchwork bell-bottoms and flared-sleeve tops, to lava lamps, Nag Champa, and trips to Haight Ashbury, Fabulous fell in love with the bohemian spirit of the 60s and 70s, and embraced the culture and aesthetics that bands like the Grateful Dead fostered. Her deep dive into hippie culture, combined with the tactile practice of sewing and quilting that her mom introduced her to at age four, set Fabulous on course for what she has created and achieved with the Meghan Fabulous brand today.
“That was the beginning of my trademark ‘California modern bohemian’ aesthetic that has become my brand,” says Fabulous. “The bold colors and embellishments that are featured in almost every piece ultimately stem from my love of 70s rock music and its loud and crazy nature. But also, these bright, neon, patchwork quilts and chunky afghans that my mom and grandmother used to make really influenced my color palette and desire to creatively mix prints and styles.”
In 23 years designing under the Meghan Fabulous brand, Fabulous has covered a lot of ground. The brand has gone through multiple evolutions: A dress featured on the cover of Vogue, worn by Shakira; appearing on QVC and embracing her rightful title as queen of the $100 polyester dress; dealing with business partner issues and struggling to keep the business alive. However, Meghan Fabulous — both the brand and the exuberant woman behind it — underwent their biggest evolution in 2018 when Fabulous met the love of her life, Steve Dunlap. During the couple’s “getting to know you” phase, the two connected over their common love and affinity for none other than the Grateful Dead. Dunlap is an unabashedly dedicated Deadhead, captivated by the music first and then the community. Fabulous is a happily definitive hippie whose love for its art and community first brought her to the band.
A month into their relationship Dunlap took Fabulous to her first Dead & Co show at Dodger Stadium. She was officially hooked. Fabulous was familiar with the classic Grateful Dead iconography and culture, but as her and Dunlap frequented more shows together, she became enamored by the band’s “Shakedown” culture—a free-wheeling pre- and post- concert party in the parking lot of the venue where Deadheads sell handmade merch and revel in the nights set list.
At the same time, Fabulous and Dunlap also began to cultivate another aspect of their relationship: as business partners.
“When we met, I had just sold my first business and I was looking for something new, and really organically it became this,” recalls Dunlap. “I didn’t know anything about this space, but I knew business and could drive that aspect of Meghan’s brand. I can’t even begin to understand how Meghan does what she does, and I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t have the product. And the product is Meghan, not the clothes.”
“At the time Steve became my business partner, my product had become so watered-down,” Fabulous said. “It took him coming in to help with the business side of things, for me to realign my vision and start creating the collections you see now. This is who I really am and now the brand reflects that.”
One of the strengths of the brand is that as a designer, Meghan Fabulous knows precisely who she is designing for.
“My girl, she’s extra. She’s the one that always dials it up a little,” Fabulous said. “ She walks into the room and she wants to be seen and have people ask her what she is wearing. She loves attention and she also doesn’t want to spend a fortune for it. She’s eclectic and bohemian. She’s not afraid to show who she is through her fashion.”
It was only a matter of time before Fabulous and Dunlap conceived a way to incorporate their love for the Grateful Dead with their brand. With absolutely no experience in music or art licensing, Dunlap sent out over 200 emails until one eventually landed in the correct mailbox at Warner Music. After a couple meetings and a perfectly crafted proposal, Meghan Fabulous was granted a collaboration with the Grateful Dead.
“Getting the whole deal was surreal for me. I had never done anything of that magnitude before,” says Fabulous. “At first it was amazing, and then it felt a little scary because then I actually had to deliver.”
Despite a few production setbacks due to Covid shutdowns abroad, Fabulous and Dunlap undeniably delivered. The Grateful Dead Fabulous collection is the perfect mix of high-fashion craftsmanship and silhouettes with unconventional and wild prints that include a range of Grateful Dead insider references (See: Ice Cold Dangle Earrings, “Wook” Hair Clip, The Tapers Clutch Purse). Think Versace meets Nudie Cohn (the man who made rhinestone cosmic cowboy suits a thing).
“The way that the whole collection has evolved has been so crazy and it hasn’t felt real up until recently,” says Fabulous. “Just being accepted into this Grateful Dead community has been amazing. I have met and become friends with a lot of Shakedown artists and really cherish the magic of the community.”
Fabulous and Dunlap plan to bring together both their Grateful Dead community and their local El Segundo community with a huge block party celebration at the El Segundo Art Walk.
“To celebrate the Grateful Dead Fabulous Collection, we are going to have our own version of a Shakedown on Sheldon Street,” says Fabulous. “We are going to have my famous shakedown booth where people can see, touch, and purchase pieces from the collection. We are going to have the Redondo Dead play from 4:30-7:30 p.m. El Segundo Brewing are providing the bar with beer, wine, and margaritas. We’ll have food trucks, and best of all, we are going to have other Shakedown vendors.”
The pair is forever grateful for the community they have become a part of in El Segundo and want their Shakedown party to celebrate the city’s eclectic and vibrant artists.
“I’m really proud to be in El Segundo and love that our business is here,” says Fabulous. “Everyone on our street is an artist, and it feels like we are all kind of trying to accomplish and celebrate the same thing — our community.”
Meghan Fabulous hosts the “After Dead Party” as part of the El Segundo Art Walk. The event is at the Meghan Fabulous shop at 142 Sheldon Street and runs from 4 to 8 p.m., with the Redondo Dead performing 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. The event also features a bar from the El Segundo Brewery Company, Shakedown vendors, artists, fashion (of course), food trucks, and more. See MeghanFabulous.com for more information on the brand and its Grateful Dead Fabulous collection.