This fall I took a detour from my usual pattern making and created a sustainable fashion collection. I still kind of can’t believe it myself! I’m going to post a 3 part blog series about the runway show I organized, my design process in creating the collection, and my reflections about the process. Keep an eye out for parts one and two!
The inspiration for this collection bubbled up during one of the classes I taught this spring. As a teacher, I love to learn and experience. I feel like the more hands on I am, working through the techniques and lessons I’m conveying to my students, the more empathic and truly helpful I can be for them. After watching my amazing students wrap up their end of year fashion show, I thought, plainly, 'I think it’s time for me for me to put on one of these things.’
I spent a lot of time in the spring sketching and thinking about fabric. The whole thing evolved pretty organically from there. I ordered swatches, I sewed some test garments, I drafted patterns, and I thought about my studio practice and what I might like to incorporate into this collection.
By mid summer I was fully immersed, working through design issues and challenges in the same way my students do in class. It felt good to be engaged in that experience and gave me a new appreciation for their hard work and thought process. As an artist, it also felt really good to be creating things from some sort of compulsion inside me. And it felt good to do so with the intention of crafting a thoughtful expression of fashion for the future.
Perhaps as strong as my desire to create is a need to collaborate. As I worked on pieces for the show, I started reaching out to folks I admired and who’s creative vision through design I felt a kinship with. As I connected with each person, the collection evolved. I decided to take an editorial approach, styling my pieces with items from a number of designers and boutiques I had decided to collaborate with. Since a fashion show only lasts a matter of minutes, why not build in an experience? How could I bring together folks interested in slow fashion to spark conversation and grow community within greater Boston.
So I decided to grow the event from a runway show to a whole slow fashion marketplace, or exchange. Several of the designers and boutiques who provided pieces for the runway show set up their wares and chatted with slow fashion enthusiasts all night. It was wonderful to see people making connections and meeting new friends. I had a killer line up of vendors, including Slow Process, Practice Space, Dyer Maker/Craftwork Somerville, Nathalia JMag, Peston, and Hot Foot Vintage.
When it came time for the runway, the reality of what had been crafted hit me. I told my models, “it’s the apocalypse! But, like, a good one where nature reclaims the earth and everyone creates fabulous looks from reclaimed materials!” Sometimes the real core of a project doesn’t reveal itself until after it’s come into being. It’s amazing how that stuff works. I think this story really crystallized as my MIL Sheryl (of Thistle and Bone Floral Design) was finishing up the amazing floral set pieces, made from a variety of flowers, greenery, and fabric scraps entwined around steel tower-like structures.
The day of the event is a blur. I can’t even understand how it came together but there was definitely a bit of magic in the air. Each person who participated filled a unique and important role and it was wonderful to see each persons unique ideas converge into a fun and vibrant expression of fashion. Can you tell I’m already feeling nostalgic about it? What can I say, I’m a softie.
All the models wore either borrowed, thrifted, or their own shoes. The bright teal and lavender socks are all vintage deadstock from the 80s. All of the jewelry not made by a collaborating designer was also thrifted. The floral head pieces, earrings, and ‘tattoos’ were also created by Thistle and Bone Floral, who shared leftover flower bits with my amazing hairstylist, Brianna Signor and my makeup artists, Kayla Hall & Liz Collins.
I used a limited number of textiles in this collection, including both new and vintage fabrics. I created tops from a vintage cotton blend seersucker and both tops and dresses using an antique embroidered table cloth. My main fabric was a domestically produced (Texas grown cotton, knit in North Carolina) organic heavyweight french terry. It’s truly one of the coziest, squishiest fabrics I’ve ever worked with. Amy Lou Stein (Dyer Maker/Craftwork Somervillle) helped me create the most amazing color palette using natural dyes. I tried my hand at indigo, tea, and avocado. She dyed fabric and felt using weld, brazilwood, as well as creating amazing ‘prints’ by combining Sumac (tannin) soaked fabric and rusty objects, including a rusty, abandoned Somerville DPW snow shovel. I also created my own textiles, including felt using wool from Tree House Farms and ‘rag rug’ inspired fabric & belts, woven using scraps from my studio and from cutting out other pieces in the collection. I also embroidered a few pieces using vintage crewel wool that I’ve collected over the years. I used so many of my favorite techniques in this collection!
So here’s the looks from the runway with descriptions! (Photography by Ke Flickz and Todd Purple)