This has been by far the most personal collection I have created. Therefore there is A LOT I want to say about it. I know designs don't get to be explained blah blah blah... but this one to me is different... and it might seem like a TON of foofy emotional fluff with symbols & connections that don't resonate with a larger audience b/c they are so personal... but I'm an over-sharer... and I'm gonna share all about this emotional journey I've taken... b/c this collection meant a lot... I was soooooo nervous this year b/c it was sooooo very personal & I just didn't know if I could adequately tell this personal story in a way that would even come close to placing on Highball's Stage... Again: HONORED to place 2nd.... So here we go!
I've wanted to do a collection that used afghans or a collection that used quilts for some time. However it didn't feel right for Alternative Fashion Week since there is already an aMAZing designer who primarily crochets.... and then Viktor & Rolf did a super cool collection that had a ton of quilting... so I shelved the ideas thinking of them as separate & not connecting to me at the moment....
I have also toyed around the idea of "The Elements: Earth, Wind, Fire, & Water" for awhile but couldn't think of a unifying mode of creation (one color palette or materials like I did with all neckties in 2017) Then it happened...
Basically I had a mental breakdown. An emotional crisis centering around our family's need for our own home/house. Questions on what an ideal home would be, what has been home in the past, why is this process so freaking hard, WAVES of depression, FLARES of frustration, OVERWHELMING GUSTS of anxiety at the lack of control in the chaos.... it clicked. Connecting the 4 elements to this very personal mental/emotional journey to what a home has been, is, & hopefully will be just had to be what I worked. Since it was all going to deal with home I was stoked to get to use the ideas of BOTH afghans & quilting... & later mixed in many other textures/handy crafts that I was surrounded by growing up (needle point, knitting, tole painting, dried floral arrangements, grapevine wreathes/trees, rag rugs... & on and on)
I started with Earth. Mother Earth... at one time aiming for a pregnant model, but lucky enough to have the AMAZING Melissa Gould to step in. There was a set of pillow tops that my Mamaw started but were in an unfiinished pile when she died... they had a house on them and that quilted house was what made me think of creating some sort of skirt with a "quilted" scene. I believed that the pillow tops were long sold at a previous yardsale, but after I told my mom about my idea/plans she dug around & found THE pillow tops I had in mind. I finished them & the house became the center focal point of Earth's Skirt. Also from the pillow tops were little hearts that had the words "when this you see remember me" on them... after wiping away the tears I also affixed them to Earth. Earth to me represented the comfort of my home and loving arms of the women in my life. The same comfort and warmth that I want to have in my own home for my family. Her giant yarn puff ball wrap is remiscent of foliage on trees & represents the coverage a home and family give. Her horns were meant to look almost like cornucopia's or the horns of plenty from thanksgiving because you don't leave my mom's or mamaw's hungry & I hope you never leave my home hungry either :)
Water represented the tears/depression the depth of sorrow when you just don't feel like you can get out of bed b/c you are drowning in life's waves. While this sadness is hard I believe it is a necessary part of the journey. Just like water it cleanses the soul to cry & the experiences add depth of character. I was blessed to have Jereatha Heriot agree to be the representation of this element/emotion. Her beauty, understanding, & sincerity in her portrayal made me cry more tears (happy ones). My mom made the afghan that was the base for her top. We were going through my blanket chest & she was helping me decide what to keep, hand down, gift, or sell at our next yard sale. She came across this one and said "oh I made that ages ago... you can throw it in yard sale" Therefore, after she left I promptly took it down to my studio, cut into it and made this. She also cried happy tears (or at least she said they were happy ones) when she saw it. That afghan was in our home when I was little & it has a special sea shell pattern that also connects to the theme of water. Her necklace/neck piece is made up of a variety of quilting fabrics, pony beads, & stuffing. My great grandma & Mamaw used to make these necklaces (single stranded) out of old quilting scraps & give them to friends & family. I chose to make almost a chest plate out of them to represent some of the weight I feel my sadness can be on my heart. The icing on the cake was of course sparkly tear drops tucked into the puff ball hem of the top, & the umbrella cloud that can block out the sun from time to time.
Fire... oh Fire... I went to go see a production of side show & there was this amazing actor who played Jacob. He had a STRONG stage presence & it was clear he let the characters cares & passion burn into him. I was SO PLEASED that Brandon Alexander agreed to represent my fire. I am a small cute curvy girl & my fire is not always seen but it burns inside of me just as fiercely as it does everyone else. I am passionate, I get frustrated, & it feels like it eats away at me from the inside out sometimes. I think I get this part mostly from my father. I flare up, I spit out what I feel with no filter, & at times hurt the ones I love the most. I get burnt out at home with the girls or lately with TOO MANY PROJECTS lol. This fire though is NOT a villain & I got to share with this model that this fire is also where I not only get my passion but also my good days where I feel like a bad ass, like I'm on fire! & get out of my way b/c I'm gonna burn through these struggles like fire through ice :) This character NEEDED flares :) & he needed to be large, powerful, & intense... bc that is how I feel it! His coat was made out of yarn tassels & an upcycled blanket. His pants were made out of the reverse side of the same blanket & then had rag rugs hand stitched & cut to look like burnt flames. He carried a "flame" in his hand that smoked... which then transitioned me right to.... WIND
I cannot express how all the small details came together & brought my little “everything is connected” heart so happy but I shall try: WIND was being played by Wendy!!! Wind... Wendy.... I mean... YES! but Wind to me represented my overwhelming anxiety. My biggest problem with the whole home situation was a lack of control in SOOOOOO many ways. As anxiety is my biggest monster it was necessary to have her be the big costume. Originally I saw this as an all pastel & neutral piece with lots of doilies etc.... but as I was putting it together... it did not look beautiful... It was a mess. & HERE IS THE THING
All of these emotions can be dark, can be negative, can be difficult... however I have to live with them. They are part of who I am and I need to make peace with them & see them as not just foe but also friends that lead me to where I need to be when I need to be... There is light in the darkness.... I believe it to be God & that light is what keeps me.... so I NEEDED these emotions to be beautiful.... to me at least.... It was a way to make peace with them....
Sooooooooo I TORE THE COSTUME APART TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE SHOW
& started to re-cover it. I decided that depression & fire feed into my anxiety so why not include their colors... then... why not include earth's colors as well... b/c you love your family/home you worry about it (My Mamaw was an expert worrier). Then it became a rainbow tornado... Which my husband was VERY concerned about b/c he just didn't think it looked like a tornado... which I get but lets be honest... I'm not a realist & at this point I'm soooooo far down the crazy train that there was no going back... but to me... a rainbow is a promise. & I think there is something to my organized chaos of a rainbow anxiety tornado making me a promise.... a promise perhaps to add to who I am, a promise to remind me of everything home & family brings me (the chaotic good bad & ugly :)) I'm honestly not sure what BS analogy/promise my rainbow turd (sorry I love it... but also... I mean... I know) is making me... but it means something to me that I right now can't put into words.
The tornado has pretty much EVERYTHING but my kitchen sink in it. There are garden gnomes (b/c I wuv them) There are potholders my mom crocheted, there are small ornaments that my great grandma on my dad's side crocheted, a snowflake my other great grandma needle-pointed, the word family, keys raining from the clouds, grapevines, items I crocheted, quilted scraps, a humming bird to represent my Mamaw, a red cardinal to represent my father (both passed on)... the ONLY two things on the costume that didn't represent some aspect of what home is to me were a small cow... (b/c you can't make a tornado costume without a Twister reference) & a small shark toy that TOTALLY played VERY dramatic theme music when squeezed.... (b/c you can't make a tornado costume without a Sharknado reference....)
HUGE thank you to the AMAZING Phia Salon!!!!
They styled my yarn wigs BEAUTIFULLY!!!
& I was SO HAPPY with the makeup....
Also THANK YOU TO Stephanie Cunningham Stein for always being the best organizer/coordinator :) & Betsy Pandora along with the whole Short North Alliance for making such a fun and crazy event for us crazy designers who have mental/emotional breakdowns to work on through some stuff :)
There is no other thing I know of that gives makers this opportunity... and it means so much to me.