Annamarie found L.A. by way of New York/Boston/San
Francisco. Before that rebellion as a high schooler
in Missouri meant "going to school in ball gowns,
make-up to my temples, 'Liquid Sky' hair and bare feet."
years ago she started dedicating herself commitedly
to collecting vintage clothes and swing dancing. As
she observed authentic '40s clothes getting shredded
during the rigors of all that big band-fueled spinning,
sliding and sweating, it occured to her that someone
should make vintage styles in durable contemporary fabrics.
"At the time fidelity to the time travel fantasy
was part of the fun," she says. "People were
very conscious of obeying the rules of the period. Now
not so much anymore. Today it's less about dressing
you see more sweatpants and sneakers. It's more
just about dancing. The swing scene has changed quite
a bit. But at the time my designing partner and I were
like, we want to make vintage clothing but in new fabrics
so that when you dance in them you don't destroy them
and you can still have a look that's consistent with
the swing era."
took to the business challenge, and soon went solo as
a designer. When the dotcom bubble and its exploding
rents drove her business out of San Francisco last year,
Annamarie embraced life as an Angeleno entrepreneur.
With the mobility of her web-based business, centered
on her downtown studio showroom, she's been able to
thrive in the wake of the bust that's made a ghost town
of those pricey Bay Area lofts.
It wasn't so long ago the swing revival, like the "New
Economy," was the subject of boomtown fever. That
peaked in 1998 with the instant success of the swing
dancing ads that exploded sales of The Gap's standard
khakis and white T's. We know the NASDAQ's on the rocks,
so how is the swing scene nowadays?
"Almost completely gone in New York City. But
Boston's pretty good and Chicago's pretty good. It's
really hot in the midwest still and the Pacific northwest.
not that it's bad in San Francisco by the time
I left a lot of the clubs had closed, but there's still
a core group and swing dancing is down to two nights
a week. Back in '98 you had several choices of swing
club every night of the week. Here you can still go
dancing every night, so it's still hottest in L.A. There
is an emerging swing scene in London, and in Sweden
oddly enough. I have customers in Germany in Switzerland.
Their swing events are like every month or two. Australia
is good too, I hear.
"People who were there at the beginning claim
that the swing revival started back in 1989. I didn't
join until '93. It absolutely peaked in 1998. The whole
Gap swing dancing commercial the candle was lit
on one end then the Gap ad burned it from the other.
What happened was you had a lot of people who had never
seen swing before, saw the commercial and said, Ooh!
Ah! I want to go be a part of this. So they flooded
into all the swing venues and it really pushed out a
lot of the regulars, who were like, God, it's too crowded,
I can't dance, and they stopped going. Then when the
trendiness ended and people who just wanted to be part
of the hot new thing left, there were only some hard
core people left. But today you still get new people
joining. They're like, I've only been swing dancing
for a month! And I'm like, holy cow!"