Annual Art2Wear show returns to the great outdoors

ajohnson@newsobserver.comApril 25, 2013 

— In its 12th year, NCSU’s Art2Wear fashion show kept the clothes fashion forward, while taking a step backward when it came to location.

The popular show of collections by the students in the university’s College of Design and College of Textiles returned to the outdoors this year, landing under tents on the school’s Court of North Carolina. It hadn’t been in that center of the campus since 2008. For the past three years, it had been at Reynolds Auditorium.

“It’s a fraction of the size (of Reynolds), but it feels more like a true fashion show,” said Lauren Caddick, director of this year’s show, hours before the evening event. “Already the energy feels different.”

Moving to Reynolds, she said, allowed Art2Wear to increase its audience. But while the auditorium has a vastness perfect for a basketball game, for a fashion show that meant a loss in seeing some of the work’s detail.

“Here, it feels like we brought it back home,” she said.

Plus, available lawn seating seemed apropos since the show’s theme was “Hypernatural.” The concept is a trend being seen in design, said Kayla O’Daniel, the show’s public relations director and a senior in management and design. For instance, is a white strawberry really a strawberry? What about a flower engineered to bloom in a rainbow of colors? “Basically, it’s exploring where the line between natural and unnatural is blurred,” she said. “How far can we push nature?”

The 10 designers of the eight collections (there were two teams of two) at Art2Wear explored those kinds of questions in different ways.

Senior Brittney Tabron named her collection “Insurrection,” creating five pieces she said express rebellion. “They’re about defiance of stereotypes around race and gender and more,” she said during Art2Wear’s rehearsal Wednesday. “All my models don’t fit the stereotypes either – they’re short, curvy, African-American.”

Featured prominently in her work were jersey harem pants and a felt manipulation Tabron created by wrapping the material with rubber bands for a folded technique.

Roommates Sarah Edens and Lindsey Sherrill’s imaginations took them to the sea. They have a shared connection to water, so their collection “Creatures of the Deep,” ponders life underwater and the adaptations of its creatures. They tackled swimwear – something they’d never made before – and took viewers from the top of the sand to waters’ deepest levels, where Anglerfish might dwell. “We wanted to be edgy and whimsical,” Sherrill said.

That doesn’t mean their six pieces were just about aesthetics. Their textiles backgrounds, they said, made them want to create work that was actually wearable.

“Underneath the artistic elements, they’re still functional,” said Edens.

It’s those varied perspectives that make the show such a popular draw. “The thing about Art2Wear is it’s not just a runway show,” said Caddick, who was a designer in last year’s event. “It’s not just clothing going down a runway. It’s a theatrical production. You get to see different views of the world. The models are like actors; they’re told to look somber or happy or angry. There are so many different stories in one big show. We’re always taught at the school to always include a narrative in our work.”

Designer Laura Tripp has been waiting to tell her story. The fourth-year student (she’s in the five-year Anni Albers Scholars Program with a double major in the Colleges of Textiles and Design) said she thinks her entire college experience has been building to her participation in Art2Wear.

“I’ve wanted to do it since I was a freshman.”

When the theme was released, she started brainstorming. Her “Dissimulate” collection is a conceptual meditation on camouflage. “I thought it was going to be about pattern, but it ended up being about texture,” she said. She mixed sheers and heavy weight fabrics and played with shapes.

With the end of the journey to her first show approaching, she seemed nervous, excited and a little giddy. “It was great,” she said of the process. “It was one of the hardest things, but the work made it worth it.”

ajohnson@newsobserver.com; 919-829-4751; twitter.com/amajomartin

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