I don’t know why people, including me, always say about a new season’s trendy color, that it’s the “New Black“. There isn’t any color which can replace black; you can’t beat it. It has always been the standard for elegance, versatility and style. At Brava!, black is our most important color; not our only color, but certainly our raison d’etre.
After all, the original idea for Brava! came to me while I was attending a concert of solidarity, performed by the San Francisco Opera Orchestra last year. Amidst the appalling orchestra lockouts in Minnesota, and Atlanta, they had been negotiating their own contracts, unsure of the future. There seemed to be an ever-eroding respect for the Performing Arts, and especially music education, creating an apprehensive atmosphere among professional musicians on a national level. The Orchestra came onstage at the Concert Hall, relieved about the results of their successful negotiations with the Union. The men looked fine in their tuxedos; the women wore their concert blacks.
I knew, of course, that orchestral musicians must wear black in the orchestra pit, but hadn’t really thought about this. There are about thirty female musicians in the S.F. Opera Orchestra, and each one has to come up with a concert black outfit for every performance. There are ten operas scheduled for the 2015-2016 Season, which runs from September – December, then May through June, for a total of 68 regular opera performances, plus any other events the Orchestra is required to perform. This means that each of these women must come up with at least sixty-eight concert black outfits each year. Sixty-eight! Even with double performance days, and switching around the same outfits every week, you’re still looking at a big need for black performance attire.
I saw that the gentlemen looked pretty good in their tuxedos, but the poor ladies were wearing any black they could find. They clearly had issues with matching dye-lots, shrinking, fading, and fit. A lot of them looked uncomfortable. These women were world-class musicians, and I thought they deserved better, especially in this alarmingly pervasive atmosphere of disrespect for the Arts.
When I worked backstage for some of the Lamplighters Music Theatre productions, I had also been required to wear all-black. Being an ex-New Yorker, I certainly owned plenty of black pieces, but always struggled to find comfortable and appropriate black outfits. I laughed to myself, because these days, if I need to wear appropriate, comfortable and stylish black these days, I have my bamboo clothing by Carole Wang.
“I could help them dress.” I thought.
This was no fleeting thought. I decided to see if providing a working wardrobe for female orchestral musicians was a viable idea. I took an informal survey of my friends in the Performing Arts, and found It was as I’d thought; the respondents all faced the same wardrobe dilemmas. I was surprised to find that half of these women were professional singers and actresses. It seems it’s also difficult to find the appropriate audition outfits, or stunning dresses for big events and recitals. I knew I was definitely onto something, then.
About six months later, during my opening event at the Lamplighters Music Theatre rehearsal space, I was further surprised. After our fun, informal fashion show, there was a rush to purchase. And, these women weren’t only buying concert black, but also in these same pieces in colors, for elegant casualwear. The final surprise was that these clothes had a such a wide appeal, to ages 25-65, and to a variety of body types.
Real clothes, for real women.
Brava! has the “New Black“ – Concert Black.