Chikoko Metamorphosis

by Nolan Ford

Seven years ago, five women known as The Gorgeous Ventriloquists collaborated on their first fashion production titled The Experimental Fashion Show. None of the women had a traditional background in fashion, but they had experience with performing and visual arts, which they utilized to make the show a huge success. The positive feedback the women received from the sold out crowd inspired them to continue to improve upon their previous effort. The group renamed themselves Chikoko and have been putting on approximately two large productions each year ever since.

This upcoming Saturday’s production, titled Metamorphosis, will be hosted at Chikoko’s largest venue yet, the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds. Designer, Muir Hughes, was kind enough to meet with Synthesis for a delightful conversation about her introduction to the art form, the value of fashion in Chico, and how she and her fellow designers will continue their streak of thrilling performances. The element of surprise is instrumental to the success of a Chikoko production so Muir wasn’t able to reveal too many secrets, but she was able to provide a few windows of insight into what their fans can expect this year.


Can you tell me a little bit about how you originally got into fashion?


I have more of a performance background. Some theater and independent movies…I’ve dabbled in that and those are some of my greatest loves, but there’s not enough time. A lot of the other members have a background in circus arts. They went to circus school together so we’re creating something that isn’t traditional theater, but has theatrical elements and is really lively. We want to hit enough exciting points that anybody coming to the show will find it interesting.


What do you find attractive about expressing yourself through Chikoko as opposed to other art forms?


For me personally, all art is a narrative of the human experience. Each design is like a mini-narrative and I have this creation. Then the model has their persona that they bring to walk the runway. It seems like a simple thing, but for me it transcends that. It’s a mini-narrative of our human experience so it IS a performance wearing something outlandish and walking in front of people. In some ways I’ve found that it’s more powerful than having your lines memorized for a play because you’re just walking so everything is communicated only in your eyes and your walk.

It’s pretty amazing to see that all come across and how people rise to that challenge. Sometimes people have never been on a runway or even a stage. It’s great to see people just come alive like that. It’s such a shared experience. I love sewing, sculpting, and doing these things by myself, but when you’re sharing an experience with someone else, it just becomes that much more powerful.


What is the goal of the event?


We want everybody to come away feeling changed. I’ve never been to high-end designer shows, but I think the shows are exclusive and can be snobbish. That’s the total opposite of what we are trying to embrace. We want a wide variety of body types. We want to celebrate everybody. Our group embraces the idea of diversity so that fashion isn’t relegated to this really narrow part of the population.

How we express ourselves can be found in the clothing that we choose or alter. This is like an explosion of that idea, but in our day-to-day life that’s also true. People go to Burning Man so they can express themselves, but I think we should have that freedom whenever we so choose. We need to find more vehicles that give us permission.


How is the show structured and what are the themes of Metamorphosis?


There are four sections within the show. Each one has potential to have an internal narrative.

Alchemy is the ambition of turning everything into gold and how it goes wrong. There’s also something much deeper than that when gold is more metaphorical for riches and your existence. I think that’s where we’re taking something that has value and transforming it to have that value, even though it’s not literally made of gold.

Garbage. We are such a wasteful society that it’s really horrifying what we’re doing. We don’t have to employ so much manufacturing that isn’t filled with consciousness. This is a lighter interpretation of that. We can have fun and we can create the life that we want without buying all new things. This is sort of celebrating the abundance of materials that we can draw from to use in our lives.

Chrysalis is more of a natural, organic, seasonal shifting – more animal, more primal, less human. Metaphorically we are all going through metamorphosis all the time; changing even though we don’t see it. People that live closer to the land are experiencing that all the time, but most of us are living behind walls and we’re really separated from that natural process, but it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. We’re just not looking at it.

Grandma’s Attic. We just wanted to make something that was goofy. A lot of the things that give us comfort, we are almost embarrassed by. Even aging makes us uncomfortable, but it’s just us having fun and saying that all of this is wonderful and it can be comforting, it can be fashionable, it can be now…it’s ageless.


Can people buy the designs worn on the runway? Do the Chikoko designers sell anything that is wearable in everyday life?


It’s sort of madness. We have an on-site store the night of the show and people really want some of the things on the runway so we do that. We’ll also have some clothes at Three Sixty Ecotique so people can shop and support them too. Other than that, we usually have things online or we have these different sales, but we don’t have a regular store.

Some of the pieces you see on the runway are probably things that most people could never ever wear. They don’t have a place to wear them to and they take lots of time, but they make the show entertaining. We do have a lot more pieces that are ready to wear that could adapt to your day-to-day life. Both of those are options. We try to hit all of the marks.


Chikoko’s biggest production to date, Metamorphosis, will take place at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds on Saturday, October 20th. Tickets can be purchased in advance at Diamond W or Three Sixty Ecotique for $18 or at the event for $20. The doors open at 6PM and the show starts at 7:30PM.

Nolan Ford grew up in Chico, California with great respect and admiration for Synthesis and its mission to provide an alternative voice on matters of music, art, and life in Chico. In addition to editing the paper and managing its musical content, Nolan performs with various bands around town including Perpetual Drifters, The Rugs, Pat Hull, and acoustic duo, Emma & Nolan.