Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chewy Not "Crunchy"

Okay, first I have to confess that I stole that title from our wonderful friends at Boutique Chartreuse in St. Louis, who blogged about my recycled candy wrapper dress and came up with that clever phrase. I simple couldn't come up with anything nearly as catchy on my own, so I just had to use it.

That said, on to the sweet stuff. And I mean that literally.

A few months ago, the Apparel Industries Board of Chicago contacted me about creating a dress from candy wrappers for an event called Sweet Chic. Sweet Chic was to be the the finale to Chicago's Fashion Week, and would entail 14 Chicago Fashion Designers teaming up with 14 Chicago Apparel Designers to create couture designs (made from candy wrappers and boxes). The designs would premier at the Museum of Contemporary Art on October 11th, then be auctioned off with all profits going to the Spina Bifida Association of Illinois. Pretty cool.

I was assigned Charleston Chew. Perhaps now it is all coming together as the title of this blog begins to make sense. You know, eco-fashion tends to be associated with being crunchy or granola and all that. Here at Mountains of the Moon, we set out way back when to break this stereotype. And since I was approached about designing my dress from Charleston Chew wrappers and to create a piece that was wearable yet couture, in the end, my dress was not crunchy at all. It was however, chewy. Not literally (I didn't use actual candy), but it was made up of hundreds of Charleston Chew wrappers (which I am still, weeks later, randomly finding not only in every corner of my studio, but also in places like my bathtub and attached to my dog's paws). My boyfriend and I even made up a Charleston Chew robot dance that was induced by the temporary insanity caused by working with these wrappers into the wee hours of the night (and morning) for several weeks. So this design was, truly, a chewy, not crunchy, eco-masterpiece (that sounds really arrogant to call it a masterpiece, but hey, it sounds good when you read it, so I'm leaving it).

I'll spare you the agonizing details of the composition of the design, but I will say that Charleston Chew wrappers do not like to be made into art. They don't sew without ripping. They resist several types of glue. They stick together in very inconvenient places. But through much experimentation, I was able to make it work in the end. I combined the wrappers with vintage silk into an Audrey Hepburn-inspired dress with a modern twist (the bubble/balloon skirt which was hand-tacked and stuffed with tulle).

It was really a wonderful experience for me (despite the ridiculous amount of time that went into it), because it gave me the opportunity to create an eco-friendly work of wearable art from recycled materials that would have otherwise ended up in some landfill. I am used to working with organic and sustainable fabrics everyday, but this was an entirely new adventure. It really did have quite an effect on me, and now I find myself looking at everyday objects that many would consider trash, and envisioning new ways to turn them into art.

The creations are currently on display at shops along the Magnificent Mile (that is the portion of Michigan Avenue where all of the fancy fashion boutiques and department stores are, for all you non-Chicagoans), and afterward will be listed online for auction. I will be sure to post that link once the website is active.

I now dream of ways to empty my trash bin on the floor of my studio and make recycled art from its contents. Gross or fabulous? Perhaps a little of both, but most definitely just one of the many ways we can all combine creativity with environmentalism, which is a wonderful thing in my book.


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