Are you Ready to Wear?

This past Friday, IIDA Rocky Mountain Region hosted their 7th annual Prêt a Porter event at the Ellie Calkins Opera House. 20+ design firms were paired up with local material representatives and tasked with creating a piece of couture fashion for the runway event. First, I want to extend my congratulations to all of the participants, both winners and non-winners. It was an incredible evening, and everyone should be proud of their accomplishments. In the last few years, I have participated on several of these teams, and the process never ceases to amaze me.

This year’s event kicked off over 4 months ago with a pairing event for the representatives and the design firms. Once the pairings were announced, sketches of the design concept were due a few weeks later, and a 3 month construction period followed. The design teams generally consist of 4-6 people, usually with an interiors background.

It’s difficult to show up at the initial meeting with a concept in mind, because materials for construction range from floor and wall tile to hard surface to wall covering and commercial upholstering fabric. Some of these may lend themselves to typical garment construction techniques, but how do you make something “flow” when it has the flexibility of concrete? Matters are further complicated in that the design teams are usually established before the pairings are announced. You may find yourself with a team full of sewing ninjas, only to find out that you will be wrapping your model in floor tile.

One of the more interesting aspects for me is to examine and compare the initial concept sketches (which are projected during the model walk at the event) to the final garment. Some are spot on, others are so general in nature that they could apply to any of the entries, and still others suggest a mid-course correction occurred a few months back. It’s like any other project I suppose; there are some solutions for which you have an immediate and crystal clear vision, and others require a very general armature that allows you to work flexibly until the ideal solution presents itself.

For me, I look forward to the event for all of the unpredictability and challenge that it offers. Four of us at RNL were paired with Wolf Gordon wall covering, and our initial sketch took a “go big or go home” approach. In short, we constructed an upper bodice that flowed into a dress/train lower section consisting of 3000+ individual wall paper cones ranging in size from a few inches to several feet in length. The dress was constructed on and around a fiberglass frame, and included a kinetic component that our model “deployed” and the end of the runway. The finished garment was over 10 feet long, stood over 7 feet tall and weighed north of 60 pounds. I’ll post some pictures once we receive the professional shots of the event.

In closing, I think this begins to speak to Heather’s post a few weeks ago about re-discovering your passion. We work in a professional discipline that offers events like this all year. Prêt, Design After Dark, Can-Struction, Box City (the list goes on), they are opportunities to get involved, stretch your mind, augment your skill-set, express your ideas and create something incredible. Maybe I’ll see you on a team next year.

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