N.C. State’s annual Art2Wear event is a fashion show, but it’s also about art, so designers can amuse, provoke and surprise with offerings the audience may not even fully understand.
Friday night’s 15th edition of the showcase of students from departments within the College of Design featured the stuff of retail and reverie.
Kathleen Davis’ work belongs in the latter category. This year’s theme was “The Virtue of Obsession,” and the industrial design senior’s obsession is music. She decided to represent what happens internally the first time you see a favorite band perform.
“There’s a darkness, then you sort feel your blood boiling in anticipation,” she said before the show. “The band emerges and then something majestic happens. There’s a kind of soul shift.”
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On stage that emotion looked like a creepy cool parade of male models displaying notions of progression and duality. The first model wore a large garbage bag-laden object on his back festooned with small lights. Another had a jelly fish-like form, another a chest growth. All had on gas masks.
But the darkness had some light. The gas masks were black, pink or white; some were decorated with rhinestones. There was a gender-bending note too: models had on dresses, skirt, and culottes with pink and turquoise patterns. In the end, the audience cheered.
Mycologic, junior Bailey Knight’s collection expressing her love of Earth, had its conceptual moments too. She used natural forms inspired by Piedmont mushrooms to create items both practical and otherworldly. There were salmon, saffron, and robin’s-egg-blue quilted booties and a pair of pumpkin genie pants. Her showstopper was a reversible cocoon coat created from hundreds of silk and cotton strips of hand-dyed indigo that she said weighed 80 pounds.
Susan Stephens paid tribute to her great-grandmother who loved to crochet, a skill Stephens didn’t pick up until two years ago. “I wasn’t really into it until I began to value handmade things,” she said. “I wanted to add a modern aspect, to add something new.” To that end, she used pre-spun natural wool to create a bulky wing-shaped vest, which she paired with patterned cropped pants and a silky halter tee, and to make a racer-back gown.
If there was a uniting obsession among the designers, it may have been texture. Senior Leeza Regensburger had it in her “pajama streetwear” and the fuzzy socks her models wore. Playing on the phrase “like a moth to the flame,” she created pieces meant to be sporty, playful, quirky and a little undone. Her collection included standout jackets made of synthetic fleece. A favorite was a swing coat with amoeba-shaped designs made from plastic netting she found at Home Depot that’s used for bundling firewood.
Meaghan Shea explored texture, too, in a collection that focused on the illusion of depth. The senior showed a jumpsuit, dresses and separates that featured prints she created. A hooded coat dress started with fabric she engineered with the help of Durham-based textile marketplace Spoonflower. After it was laser cut, the fabric was hooked with cords of goldenrod, teal, white and blush yarn. Her models wore $10 spray-painted rubber platforms she made crunchy-looking by embellishing them with gel medium and rice.
There was a relaxed sexy glamour to senior Angèle Gray’s Vert collection. The long, lean, black and white clothes seemed to drape each model. One barely-there apron dress had a cowhide lapel and panels of silk organza, encased fringe and silk chiffon.
Gena Lambrecht, a senior, delighted the audience by sending her models down the runway to Kanye West’s “Gold Digger.” Her Gold collection explored the power and vanity of the metal. One elegant belted gown featured vertical strips of tulle; another piece was a form-fitting glittery turtleneck dress with a mermaid hem embellished with gold sequins on the bodice.
Grace Hallman, a junior, presented the sporty Mia collection meant to capture the obsession and passion of athletes. Mesh, Lycra, vinyl and knit pieces created a muscular feel. A vinyl jacket with a laser-cut back over a red and platinum body suit radiated strength.
With Kingdom, Quinan Dalton, another junior, tackled nostalgia, aiming to present a collection that was “like a memory,” she said. She used mostly white and sage as her colors, and lattice organza, pima cotton and reflective nylon among her fabrications. A cropped top with safety pin fasteners and embroidered with an image of a home with a circle skirt that had a pleated organza overlay was sweet but not saccharine.
In the full house in a Talley Student Union ballroom was NCSU graduate Sydney Smith, who last year showed a collection here that she showed during Charleston Fashion Week. As a three-time participant in Art2Wear, she was impressed by what she saw from the group, all first-timers.
“It’s really hard to know what to expect,” she said of being selected for the event. “You have to take a leap of faith. I was astounded at what they did. It proves there are no limits.”