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FASHION | Underground Runway Presents “X’PRESSION”

At the Runway Style House in Oakland, floor-to-ceiling windows light up racks of vintage clothing and the middle of the room has an elegant simplicity of wood flooring, and the sleek spaciousness invited a runway show.

The Runway Style House hosted “X’PRESSION,” a fashion show put on by Executive Producer Hazel Wheeler and Creative Director and Stylist Tiffany Stewart’s company, Underground Runway (UGRW). Wheeler, a Mills double alumna, earned both her BA in 2011 and her MBA in 2012 at Mills. This show took place on Sunday, Nov. 3.

According to Stewart, Underground Runway provides opportunities for overlooked artists. As one of their many style-oriented events, “X’PRESSION” was a fashion show for a wide variety of artists: makeup artists, designers, stylists, photographers and videographers.

“UGRW is the platform for unsigned and under-recognized talent. The collaborating artists, now conspirators weld their talents outwardly,” Stewart said in an email. “[By] collectively joining creative resources, my show is yet another chance for unseen skills to gain notoriety.”

Models walk the runway in looks styled by Creative Director, Tiffany Stewart. (Jen Ramos)
Models walk the runway in looks styled by Creative Director Tiffany Stewart. (Jen Ramos)

Stewart attended fashion and image consulting courses at City College of San Francisco (CCSF) in 2008. In 2012, she created Underground Runway, collaborating with a Mills graduate marketing class. According to Wheeler, about half of the Underground Runway team consisted of Mills double alumnae.

The venue, Runway Style House, is a new boutique in downtown Oakland on the second floor of 455 17th Street. Its owner, Alanna Rayford, opened up the store about one month ago. Stewart and Wheeler reached out to Rayford in order to create a space for up and coming local artists. As an Oakland native, Rayford shared the same goals as Stewart and Wheeler: they all wanted to shine a spotlight on Oakland artists who are in need of an opportunity to showcase their fashion, and network with potential collaborators.

Runway Style House, Downtown Oakland (Jen Ramos)
Runway Style House, Downtown Oakland (Jen Ramos)

“Fashion is becoming a topic [of Oakland] and it’s growing,” Wheeler said. “It’s just great timing and meeting the right people who want to do the same things that we do.”

According to Wheeler, all of the clothing featured in the fashion show was a part of the Underground Runway collection. Stewart collected each piece through buying, selling, and trading from the network cultivated within Underground Runway.

The accessories, however, featured “Bows by La’Vae” created by designer and makeup artist Jimmisha “La’Vae” Verge.

Models wearing "Bows by La'Vae" with the designer herself. (Photo courtesy of
Models wearing “Bows by La’Vae” with the designer herself. (Photo courtesy of 

According to Verge, her creative nature spurred from her younger years as an only child. Her love for creating translated into a love for fashion.

Verge also earned her degree in fashion from CCSF. Her line of bows has been around for about one year. Bows by La’Vae features earrings, rings, headbands, bow ties, and hair clips, all of which cater to both men and women’s fashion.

You can find photos of Verge’s best work on

“One day, my sister and I went to the [Oakland] Art Murmur and she saw this head bow tie, but it was too small for her head. She said, ‘You go to school for fashion. You can make this for me,'” Verge said, “So later that night I made one for her. My first bow was a black, leather bow tie with four long chains hanging down. Ever since then, I’ve just been on this bow tie kick.”

Verge plans to continue networking and getting her name out there in order to own a boutique featuring her own designs.

As an overlooked artist, Verge was able to showcase her talent in Underground Runway by having not only the models wear her pieces, but also got the UGRW staff to show off their favorite pieces from her line as they welcomed in their guests.

“Anything you can think of, I put a bow tie on it,” Verge said.

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