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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

fashionSPARK showcased diverse local talents

Posted by on Tue, Sep 17, 2013 at 4:55 PM

The main stage of downtown Raleigh’s fashionSPARK event pulsed with anticipation on Saturday as DJs ExMonkeys and Nixxed blared high energy beats from the stage, and roughly 1,500 people trickled to their seats for the start of the show.

The event, MC'd by 96.1 radio host Jamie O'Brien, showcased the polished work of eight designers, most of whom are based in the Triangle, and all of whom represented distinct and developed styles.

Jessica Palmer's "Faith" collection - PHOTO BY MARY ALTA FEDDEMAN
  • Photo by Mary Alta Feddeman
  • Jessica Palmer's "Faith" collection
Jessica Palmer’s “Faith” opened the show with a large collection of romantic, 1950s boardwalk-inspired pieces. There were plenty of large sun hats, parasols, bikinis and elegant formal dresses, and seemed to leave the slightly chilly crowd wishing there were a few more weeks of summer left to accommodate such sartorial choices.

Next came Jessica Johnson Moore’s collection “Little Grey Line,” an audience favorite for one very simple reason: the models looked, on average, to be about three or four years old. These pint-sized girls marched around the runway winningly (with minimal coaxing from the show’s staff) in tiny, tasteful frocks made from repurposed button-down dress shirts—the staple piece of the collection. Each girl had her hair in a tight bun and wore white tights with no shoes. Most carried tiny leather lunch boxes, and one carried a stuffed animal. (Adorable, I’m telling you.) The audience doled out continuous applause, and understandably so.

Rebecca Ann Walker’s “RAW” collection of emerald and black pieces and Laura Meredith Tripp’s self-titled collection of 1930s and ‘40s-inspired florals followed with clean cuts and sophistication. Each piece in these two smaller collections was remarkably wearable.

The collection by Zac Schell mixed leather and metal in unorthodox, artful designs. Models hit the runway to “D.U.R.M.” by Durham hip-hop artist The Real Laww. Notable was the impressively ornate makeup designed by Marissa Rhoades.
Kristin Robbins’s collection “Tyger Alexis” - PHOTO BY MARY ALTA FEDDEMAN
  • Photo by Mary Alta Feddeman
  • Kristin Robbins’s collection “Tyger Alexis”

Candace Organ’s dichromatic designs in her collection “Le Neva” used black and plum fabrics and form fitting cuts to convey both the strong and the sensual. Each model took on the character of what Organ herself described as a “strong independent woman” with across-the-board, full-body confidence.

Kristin Robbins’s “Tyger Alexis” featured a live performance by Sam Harmonix and was inspired by the 1920s silent film Metropolis, with a futuristic spin. This collection’s presentation conveyed the idea of fashion as performance, as Harmonix and another identically dressed male performer followed with their eyes as each model walked the runway, aptly set to the Harmonix’s “Into You.”

Keely Lauren Cansler’s self-titled collection, inspired by the surreal world of Salvador Dalí, closed the show with perhaps one of the most advanced concepts. What resulted was a line of pieces that blurred the line between animal and human, natural and synthetic. Winding snake-like necklaces wrapped around a face, clawed hands, a ram’s horn and a necktie made of black hair closed out the show with a dystopian, animalistic bang.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Slideshow: reFASHIONED at Motorco in Durham

Posted by on Mon, Jul 23, 2012 at 5:57 PM

On Thursday night, Durham's Motorco Music Hall was filled with local style mavens looking to cheer on their favorite Triangle fashion designers, as the venue hosted its first reFASHIONED show.

And cheer they did as a slew of regional designers sent models out on the runway to show off their latest collections. Ten designers all showcased their stuff, starting with T-shirt designs from such folk as Nyla Elise, Runaway Clothes and Johnny Swank's House of Swank.

The show then went on to feature designers who deal with refurbished and recycled material, like Belindabilly, Rocket Betty, Gypsy Witch and handbag designer JenJen, who caused quite the "WTF?" reaction from the audience as models in lucha libre wrestling masks (also designed by JenJen) hit the catwalk carrying bags.

The entire event was organized by biologist/ vintage clotheshorse Kala Wolfe, who also organizes dtownMARKET, which happens biweekly at Motorco.

Wolfe hopes to have these designers—many of them also vendors at dtownMARKET—and others involved in future fashion shows she'd like to put on at the music hall.

Says Wolfe, "I think it's really important to bring them all together and kind of show them the respect that they deserve and give them a bigger audience."

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Large turnout at CAM Raleigh as Redress Raleigh promotes eco-fashion

Posted by on Fri, Apr 27, 2012 at 12:10 PM

Two models show off JulieApple Handbags.
  • Photo by Leigh Moose/ Side Yard Studios Photography
  • Two models show off JulieApple Handbags.
By 8 p.m. or so, the Contemporary Art Museum in downtown Raleigh was fully stocked with spectators last Friday evening. They were all in attendance not for art, but for fashion.

On this night, Redress Raleigh took over the museum for its fourth annual Eco-Fashion Show, where eco-friendly designers are given the opportunity to show off the fruits of their labor. And after previously doing the show at such spots as Flanders Gallery and Edenton Street United Methodist Church, the people behind Redress thought the CAM Raleigh would be a perfect venue.

“At CAM, we feel like it fits with our aesthetic as well,” says Eco-Fashion Show co-producer Beth Stewart, “because it’s a beautiful place but it’s a renovated space. So, this used to be a different type of building and they’re re-using it.”

Eleven designers were on the bill, many of them local, culled from applications that were sent through the Redress Raleigh website. These designers also appreciated Redress’s stylishly green mission.

“I just really loved the concept of this particular show,” says Melissa Lowery, the designer behind SSD Jewelry, “because they incorporate recycled and upcycled materials, found materials, and I use a lot of that in my work.”

Started in 2008, Redress Raleigh has specialized in proving to Raleigh and other Triangle residents that eco-friendly fashion can be washable, wearable and accessible. They also put on shows to benefit other organizations. This year’s charity is ABAN (A Ban Against Neglect), which produces upcycled bags, wallets and other products using the discarded plastic bags that litter of the streets of Accra, Ghana’s capital city.

Redress has also been known to put on other events apart from the fashion show. In March, they had a benefit show at Kings Barcade, featuring such acts as Kooley High’s Charlie Smarts and hip-hop band The Balance, to raise money to put the fashion show together.

“We do like to do some networking and fun events related to the eco-fashion show,” says Stewart. “But we mainly try to do more educational events than anything else. And the eco-fashion show is our main thing.”

The show had quite an eclectic collection of designers on hand. Leopold Designs had various female models saunter down the catwalk in hand-dyed silk, while the sophisticated Kendal Leonard and the vintage Rocket Betty both had their own ideas of what should pass for bridal wear.

Perhaps the most refreshing part of the evening was the diverse selection of models that were pouting and strutting for their respective designers. JulieApple Handbags, the first designer of the evening, had women (and a few little girls) model the trendy bags. SSD Jewelry had both men and women get on the runway. JBelle Designs and Leopold Designs features many middle-aged models for their sections.

Model Ashton Edens takes the runway wearing SSD Jewelry.

There were young models who appeared to take their modeling careers thing quite seriously. But there were others, like Raleigh-based secretary/receptionist Cortney Rice, who was doing it on a lark.

“I think to go into the professional world, you gotta start really early now,” says Rice, who has done fashion charity shows at such Raleigh nightspots as Mirage and Solas. “I think they get you at 16, 17 – start you out early. So, I’m kind of past my prime. I’m 25, so I’m doing it for fun now.”

As for 16-year-old Raleigh model Ashton Edens, ol’ girl is in it for the long haul.

“It was just for the fun at first,” says Edens. “And, now, I’m starting to get into it and auditioning for a lot of stuff.”

She finds walking down the runway at a Redress show to be a step up from previous shows she’s done. “It’s a lot cleaner, I guess. It’s more refreshing, you could say. It’s not as clumped and it’s not as dark.”

Raleigh mayor Nancy McFarlane addresses the crowd gathered Friday night at CAM Raleigh.
Eventually, the show got love from the spectators, especially those who are immersed in the fashion world.

“I was surprised because, a lot of times, it’s hit-or-miss in terms of kind of the skill level of designers,” says D.C.-bred stylist Stephanie Ford, who relocated to Raleigh from Paris. “But I was really surprised and impressed with a lot of the different designers.

The only minus she had was the ticket price.

“I think $50 is kind of high, on the high end, for a ticket price. I mean, up to $35 is kind of reasonable.”

In the end, the environmentally conscious fashionistas of Redress Raleigh did what they sought out to do. To paraphrase Project Runway’s dapper-ass Tim Gunn, they made it work.

Says Stewart: “Really, the main three things [for us] are to help raise money for charities, to help expose local artists who like to incorporate recycling and up-cycling materials and to help eco-conscious practices with their businesses. So, that’s really cool.”

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The wearable lightness of being: roadkill and electric lights at Art to Wear

Posted by on Tue, Apr 12, 2011 at 8:24 AM

Veronica Tibbitts prepares for tonights Art to Wear show.
Wire, fiber optic lights and skinned roadkill are three things not often grouped together, but the designers of N.C. State’s annual fashion show, Art to Wear, don’t see it that way.

This year—tonight, in fact—marks the 10th anniversary of the collaborative show between the College of Design and the College of Textiles, and the designers are pulling out all the stops. They’re exhausted, but more than anything, they’re inspired.

I spoke with several of these designers, mostly late at night because that was the only time they could pull away from their work long enough for a conversation. Even so, I had to strain to hear them over the commotion in the background of many fervent students racing against the deadline.

Of all the students, though, it is a safe bet that none of them are going quite as extreme as Veronica Tibbitts, who scoured Raleigh’s back roads with a plastic bag, searching for mostly intact roadkill. in order to find her materials.

Tibbitts started with an idea about how much we consume every day, and she ended up picking up road kill on the side of the road. Although I was bracing for a kind of gonzo reality television star gleefully skinning animals, Tibbitts is, in fact, a strikingly collected and poised personality. And thoughtful, too as the concept behind her clothing line is memorable.

“I was inspired by unconventional or throwaway materials, and how they make you think about consumption. My first inspiration was seeing a fox killed on the road, and I thought about how if it had been killed on purpose it could’ve been a purse or a wrap, but on the road it has a much different reaction.

“When you see the face, you see another living animal and you identify with it, and you don’t want to use it as a product,” said Tibbitts, who is a senior Anni Albers scholar, a designation that means she will receive a dual degree from the colleges of both Design and Textiles.

A pair of shoes Tibbitts created from a pair of salvaged opossum skins.
Tibbitts’ impulse, then, was to claim the tossed-aside, or carelessly used, remnants of our lives, such as electricity, discarded price tags, air conditioning filters and, well, roadkill, and then throw it right back at us.

“I wanted to put them on the body to make people aware that they don’t just disappear,” she said.

After watching what she calls “countless redneck YouTube videos” on skinning animals, Tibbitts worked to skin the animals she found, and in stilettos nonetheless. She kept the faces intact in hopes of getting empathy for the creatures, and to make the audience—or customers—reconsider our wasteful practices.

“So many people see fur as fabric and it’s definitely not the same thing. These animals were killed by the lifestyle that we have. Doing this [show] will make a lot of people uncomfortable and will make them think, and that’s what I want,” she said.

If Tibbitts stretches our comfort zone the furthest, then Bryan Bullard spent the most money. , Bullard, a senior in fashion and textile management and the only male in the show, effectively emptied his bank account for the sake of art, dropping more than $1,000 on wire and LED lights. He says his line, however, was well worth it.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Slideshow: The fifth annual fashionSPARK

Posted by on Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 10:04 PM

The only thing taller than the models were downtown’s towering buildings this past Friday at the fashionSPARK Fashion Show. Twenty local designers and five jewelry designers sent their creations down a brightly lit runway in the middle of an enthusiastic, standing-room crowd at the open-air City Plaza.

The designs ranged from comfortable hippie-wear reminiscent of a winter in Asheville (LLLavender) to post-apocalyptic war-zone knitwear (Gabrielle Duggan). Many of the designers opted for earth-friendly materials, including Payton-Alexis, who showed partially sustainable wedding dresses with striking silhouettes and muted colors and finished with a dress made entirely from used coffee filters.

Coffee filters weren’t the only unusual material. Another designer, Zac Schell, showed bikinis and chainmail, perhaps for your next S&M pool party.

One of the absolute crowd favorites, however, was the jaw-dropping work of Jess Pati. The pair of artists behind the line created elegant, unique cocktail dresses that beautifully straddled the line between haute couture and ready-to-wear. Their outfits ranged from high-necked embroidered frocks to ruffled skirts paired with tops embellished with sophisticated black knitting.

Of the jewelry designers, Good Girls Studio, Inc. stood out for the simple fact that the models were dressed simply enough to let the jewelry display itself. Each model wandered down the runway, martini glass full of pearls in hand, looking very much the demented socialite in long bauble necklaces and 1930s-esque swagger.

Whether the models were strutting to remixes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ upbeat “Heads Will Roll” or taking it down a notch to The Rat People’s “Shane Domino,” the crowd had enthusiasm for all of their favorite designs, showing support for the most beautiful and the most outrageous clothing alike.

Raleigh’s elite rubbed elbows with suburbanites, all bedecked in the latest fashions themselves, and the designers reciprocated: Each took a bow on the runway after his or her collection was exhibited. The fifth annual fashionSPARK was a rousing success, and no doubt many people left the show ready to come back for the city’s next showcase of local couture.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Textiles’ seniors show off their skills, but don't say "like"

Posted by on Thu, Apr 22, 2010 at 12:49 PM

Kristen DePalmo
  • Photo courtesy of Kristen DePalmo
  • Half of Kristen DePalmo's garments await public display.

“You do not ‘like that one,'” a sign in North Carolina State University’s Leazar studio sternly admonishes inquisitive visitors who might want to express appreciation for a design piece. Across campus at the College of Textiles, the same sentiment prevails during class critiques of the Senior Fashion Collection Studio.

“You can’t use the word ‘like’,” Cynthia Istook, associate professor of textile and apparel management and senior studio teacher, said. Instead, class members can make suggestions about changing a piece, and the designer can choose whether or not to implement them. “It’s interesting to see how it impacts the designers.”

The College of Textiles senior studio class began in spring 2007. It’s been offered each spring, and also last fall for the first time. Its first iteration saw a collaboration with the College of Design, but that hasn’t happened since due traveling between the campuses and a disconnect between each college’s respective goals.

“The Textiles students weren’t used to the critique process,” Istook said. “Textiles students focus on the end consumer. Design students focus on the concept.”

The class structure sees designers develop six-piece collections over the course of 15 weeks. Approximately every five weeks, two garments must be completed and presented to the class. (This year, the middle two critiques were a mere three weeks apart due to class negotiations, according to Istook.) The show doubles as the third checkpoint.

Kristen DePalmo’s collection revolves around resort wear and uses braids and knots as embellishments. She began gathering inspiration and sketching over Christmas break.

“I wanted to make a line that would simplify packing,” DePalmo says, citing her personal inability to pack light. “It’s elegant and mix-and-match. You can slip on a long dress that would also double as a cover-up.”

DePalmo enjoyed getting suggestions on how to improve her work from her peers.

“For many of us, it’s our first time making a collection of garments, so we really appreciate the feedback we get,” DePalmo said. In previous classes, students only made one garment per semester.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Redress Raleigh: Not just fashion as usual

Posted by on Sat, Apr 17, 2010 at 11:17 AM

Margo Scott
  • Photo courtesy of Margo Scott, Rocket Betty Designs
  • One of designer Margo Scott's tiki-inspired creations.
Green, sustainable fashion is so hot right now. But residents of the Triangle don’t have to jet to New York or Los Angeles to see it (which is good, since the goal is to reduce the carbon footprint). This weekend, they can head into downtown Raleigh to see local eco-friendly fashion.

Mor Aframian initially founded MorLove, a nonprofit with proceeds going to aid orphans at the Amani Baby Cottage in Jinga, Uganda. She met Jamie Powell, who had participated in a MorLove fashion show in 2008. Aframian, Powell and Beth Stewart of Emerging Green Builders joined forces in organizing an eco-friendly fashion show for the Triangle. The first Redress Raleigh (RR) show was held last year.

“We learned a lot from last year. We’ve tried to tweak it and refine it a little more,” Aframian says. Only 15 designers will show Saturday night, as opposed to last year’s 20, and a jurying process was added for potential participants. Planning for the show has lasted for nine months—Aframian likens the process to gestating a child.

The event has attracted high-school, college and professional designers from all over the state. Naturally, the range of talent begets a propensity for diversity.

“There’s a good variety of ready-to-wear [garments], couture and adding different techniques and objects,” Aframian says.

Designer Rima L’Amir first volunteered for MorLove at its inception in 2006. Though this is her first year designing for the event, she had heard of it before.

“I’ve definitely been interested in RR, because sustainable fashion in what I want to do,” L’Amir says.

L’Amir’s collection mixes organic cotton with fabric she’s found in various places, such as her apartment and her work with MorLove.

“It’s a ready-to-wear line for young men and women, ages 20 to 30,” L’Amir says. She notes that this is her first time creating menswear, and it’s been a challenge.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Art to Wear: Prepping for The Big Strut

Posted by on Fri, Apr 16, 2010 at 10:04 AM

Gennie and models
  • Photo by Sarah Ewald
  • Designer Gennie Catastrophe chats with her models before showing her collection onstage at Reynolds Coliseum.

Audience members cheered and roared for N.C. State’s student designers and models Wednesday night in Reynolds Coliseum. But what the audience never sees is how much hairspray, cookies and ironing go into putting that line out on the runway.

I shadowed designer Gennie Catastrophe and her models in the hours before as they prepared for their moment in the spotlight.

2:15 p.m.: I arrive at eco-friendly Bottega-A Hair Studio on Glenwood Avenue, where Catastrophe has scheduled her models for their hair and make-up. The salon is especially full because Laura Mazzurella’s models are there at the same time. Catastrophe greets me wearing jeans and a white hoodie with a button proclaiming her to be a “B.F.D.,” and introduces me to her models.

Katie Stewart’s curly hair gets teased and volumized, and a stylist clips in thick braids of similar thickness and twists tiny braids of her hair. Debbi La Rue’s hair starts out straight, progresses to an updo and ultimately ends up as a side-swept ponytail. Catastrophe speaks with another stylist and points to her inspiration board for guidance, with its photos of soft waves, braids and light makeup.

Lauren Ramsey sits in another room, getting made up by an Afterglow Cosmetics technician. Ramsey closes her eyes as the technician brushes shadow onto her eyelid, creating a smoky-eye effect.

2:30 p.m.: Ramsey’s clipped-in thick braid is shedding long blond hairs.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Art to Wear: A mid-summer forest and a mental ward

Posted by on Wed, Apr 14, 2010 at 11:14 AM

Eleanor Hoffman
  • Photo by Sarah Ewald
  • Designer Eleanor Hoffman works on her collection in Leazar studio.

When showing a collection, a designer’s job is to take the audience into his or her own created world. Two designers in this year’s Art to Wear (A2W) are pulling from different locales to put their looks in proper context.

Designer Eleanor Hoffman’s collection stems from images of mirrors, moonlight and circles. Two poems, Lorenzo Smerillo’s Maze and Maria Taylor’s Birmingham 1982, serve as initial inspiration points, tacked on the wall above her work space’s sewing machine for easy reference, along with pieces of fabric cut in leaf-like shapes. The moon reference will even make it into her selected runway music, a Grizzly Bear remix of Feist’s "My Moon My Man."

“[I wanted it to be] an enchanted forest, and to have a magical feel,” Hoffman says of her line. Nowhere is this more evident than her plan for a model sporting antlers, taken from her favorite childhood book Imogen’s Antlers. Hoffman’s motifs include natural forms and use fluid lines. She’s using embellishments and laser-cut appliqués made from stencils, so she’s logged some significant time using the College of Design’s laser-cutting machine.

“It’s definitely been a learning experience,” Hoffman says of creating her line, citing examples of bleach and screen-printing mishaps. But she says they’ve turned out to be happy accidents, with the added bonus of making her work look more graphic.

Hoffman had previously designed in the 2009 A2W show, so she knew the ropes pretty well. That experience helped for this year, now that she’s pulling double duty, participating as both a designer and the event’s director. She agreed to fill the capacity before the 2009-10 school year began. There is currently no rule against a director designing a line.

She’s designing one short dress, three long dresses and two jacket and pant sets. Mannequin forms next to her Leazar workspace sport works in progress. A floor-length, one-shoulder dress with a leaf cutout and a pair of pants with beads and a racing stripe silver paint speak to Hoffman’s affinity for detail.

Designer Chase Kennedy is A2W’s youngest participant, being a junior in fashion and textile management. He should be used to this: He was the youngest designer last year as he was the only 19-year-old chosen to show.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Art to Wear: “We’re in the water and we’re really cold”

Posted by on Sun, Apr 11, 2010 at 3:48 PM

Natalie Bunch
  • Photo by Sarah Ewald
  • Designer Natalie Bunch works on her collection at Leazar studio.

Some designers in this year’s Art to Wear show are taking inspiration from the elements. Two designers in particular are working with water.

Natalie Bunch, a landscape architecture major in the College of Design, was specifically drawn to water’s various properties when she studied in Ghana last summer. Her studio was focused on observations dealing with solutions on improving the environmental systems. She cites drainage canals along every street and trash dumps lining the beach, and how the Ghanaian population connected water systems with sewage systems. Bunch aims to change the prevailing mindset by visually showing how water should be celebrated.

“There’s a way to change [the perspective], and respect water,” Bunch says. She’ll focus on water’s various attributes, such as adaptive, cyclical and aesthetic properties.

“I wanted to give a fresh outsider perspective [on water], and change the perspective on the Ghanaian people,” Bunch says, adding that she didn’t encounter much interest in water systems among the Ghanaians she met.

Bunch began sketching out ideas while still in Ghana, and then began constructing them this spring. She’s preparing five looks, with two of them being menswear. She is using both bought and found materials, including non-wovens, pre-dyed fabrics and fabrics she’s dyed herself. With her range of techniques and fabrics, Bunch is clearly ambitious and plans to showcase that fact loud and clear, especially with her final piece.

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    Some designers in this year’s Art to Wear show are taking inspiration from the elements. Two designers in particular are working with water.

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