Making a Big Splash With Tuxedo Jackets

Times Staff Writer

Susan Averill can't say it was a practical decision. She just wanted to paint pictures of fish.

She painted them on sweat shirts, T-shirts, camp shirts--things that sold to tourists at Sea World.

Surprise Market

Then the one-time schoolteacher, who paints in the converted garage of her Woodland Hills home, decided to turn to something dressier. In the process, she discovered a surprise market among women for hand-painted men's tuxedo jackets.

Her jackets, studded with rhinestones and adorned with flowers, cacti and fish, reached West Side boutiques (Hubba-Hubba and Armoire) six months ago and I. Magnin in Sherman Oaks in December.

Each decorated jacket requires 10 hours of work, including painting, beading and heat treating.

But more mysterious than the artistic process is Averill's hunt for jackets on which to paint. She says the jackets are so hard to find that she keeps her sources a secret.

"It's a real underground out there," she says. "They all have their connections, which they won't reveal. It's fun. That's part of the adventure."

The jackets, priced at $300, mark only the start of this Malibu native's painting spree. Averill plans a line of hand-painted silk scarfs and stone-washed denim jackets--if only she can pick up the pace. At peak speed, she reports, she produces just six tuxedo jackets a week.

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