Thursday night, NCSU’s Art2Wear reached its 12th year of a monarchal runway show well done. The highly anticipated event is strongly backed by education and technology, promising to deliver individual ideas through innovation. Vita Plume, former Professor of Art and Design at NCSU’s College of Design, was a key player in the infancy of the event. The showcase has grown from an audience of a couple hundred to over 5,000 in recent years, becoming a staple to East Coast fashion.
In 2011, Assistant Professors of Art and Design Katherine Diuguid and Justin LeBlanc succeeded Plume as faculty advisors. The pair led the show into new territory, scaling the venue size by bringing it back to its roots in the Courtyard of the Carolinas behind Leazar Hall on NCSU’s main campus. Since 2007, Reynolds Coliseum had served as the venue, attracting crowds in the 5,000’s. Art2Wear 2013 showed new touches of refinement and sophistication with a meet and greet VIP backstage reception, and a lecture series conducted throughout the semester with major players from the Fashion, Textile, and Media industries. This is the first year that the collections were assigned an over-arching theme, “Hyper Natural,” which seemed to dilute the polarity of individual themes from previous years.
Sarah Cannon, an Anni Alber Scholar, is a third year vet to Art 2 Wear runway and she brought forth her best collection yet. The Raleigh native was raised by a family of designers. Her parents are both architects of their own firm, Cannon Architects and her sister is a graphic designer for the Carolina Hurricanes- all alumni of NCSU College of Design. “So, I guess I was just born into the design industry, and I love it! We all help each other with designs and projects we are doing. Being creative has always been celebrated in my family, I grew up doing Odyssey of the Mind [a creative problem solving competition] and from there found my love for fashion.”
The role of technology played a large part in this collection named, “Patterned Strength.” Sarah used a laser cutter to create intricate patterns in the veneer wood hardware sourced from Capital City Lumber. She designed and printed organic motifs such as cotton shrubs on pastel blue and green silk, and cotton voile through the Durham based company Spoonflower. “The laser cutter was definitely interesting. I spent a lot of long hours in the small room…[it] has its kinks, and a mind of its own,” laughs Cannon.
The dark wood (Wenge) corset and peplum with the pencil skirt is Sarah’s most prized piece. She tells me,“It was quite the learning curve to figure out how to make a peplum out of wood. I hand stitched one that was curved in a much more dramatic way, but I did my geometry wrong, and it broke while trying to put it on a dress form. I am a lot happier with the peplum I ended up with, but to get there I went through many errors, so I am very protective over this garment.”
I asked Sarah to describe how Art2Wear has changed over the past three years…“Art2Wear has changed each year I have done it for the better, we learn from each year and know how to improve the next. I really loved the relocation back to the Court of Carolinas this year. It made the show more intimate and back to the initial ways of A2W. The theme was also a fun new challenge for the designers. I know without this theme I would have never created this collection.”
Their collection is inspired by “our intergalactic surroundings that are so unfamiliar, they seem to exist outside of nature,” an idea that was brainstormed on a road trip to Knoxville Tennesee last fall. “I don’t think we even asked each other [to co design together]. We just knew we were doing it,” says Jenn. The other-worldly design duo took the trip of a lifetime to NASA’s space center in Houston, Texas. This trip helped form the distinct runway designs. They were granted access to The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (the biggest indoor pool in the world), the cockpit of a space shuttle, Mission Control, and met an astronaut that was leaving for space that week. Jenn and Ami already had plans of this collection before the “Hyper Natural” theme was announced. The initial sketches closely compared to their final three-dimensional forms, with extreme attention to detail.
Only one garment veered significantly from its initial interpretation- the finale piece. The original idea was to have one of the double-stacked bodies come out of an all white egg shaped orb, “transforming” in the middle as it moved down the runway. The piece instead landed a massive skirt in electric shades of silk chiffon to match the sleeveless bodice worn by model Annie Grey who sat atop Taurian Smith’s shoulders. The vest was made from somewhere between twenty and forty thousand Perler beads, a material known to many as a house hold toy, each hand laid to symmetry, heated and molded into a form of perfect fit. It achieved a gasps and exchanges from every audience member. The other wow factor unbeknown to the crowd is that this collection’s out of pocket expense was close to $3,000, financed mostly by Ami’s dad. “Once he saw the final products on the runway, he was very pleased,” Sueki says.
The two align closely in everything but material choice, which may be the closest thing to a point of difference between the two. It is really the yin and yang of team Cosmosis. “We pushed really hard to make even our craziest ideas happen. I mean, if there is one time you get to do something really wild it’s for Art2Wear! The main thing that has to change is materials. We used a lot of unconventional stuff, and sometimes you aren’t really sure how they will behave. Some garments we had to experiment with a lot to figure out what materials to use.” The co-designers opted for spray paint rather than dye to achieve hyper saturated colors of nebulas and planets that popped in each garment.
For more information about how to get involved, sponsor, or stay connected please visit: Art2Wear
Article by Suzanne Atkinson // Photography by Jason Rizzo