First Curate, then Create 

BAM Art of Fashion Show spotlights exhibit-inspired materials

The line was long, the designs on the makeshift runway were beyond unique and the guests were dressed to the nines at the Boise Art Museum Art of Fashion Show on April 21. Models wore looks ranging from dresses constructed entirely from soda can tabs to jackets made out of the frames of aviator-style sunglasses. There were glass handbags, metal wings and even a paper-clad Marie Antoinette. Melanie Fales, executive director of BAM, said the creation of the annual Art of Fashion show six years ago came from a community idea.

click to enlarge Monica Sailors won the competition with her vase-inspired design in the clay catagory.  - JACK Z PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Jack Z Photography
  • Monica Sailors won the competition with her vase-inspired design in the clay catagory.

"This is a unique way to celebrate the visual arts and particularly the art of fashion," said Fales. "It makes fun connections between the artwork on display at BAM and the fashions the designers create. It is exciting to have designers respond with professional designs based on the design challenge we produce."

Each year, the theme of the show is derived from an exhibition on display at BAM. Fales said there are usually five to six exhibitions to choose from, but one always stands out as the strongest option for a design challenge. This year's theme, "Material," was inspired by Consider the Source, which showcases works from the museum's permanent collection that explore the use of materials with ties to the elements, like glass, wood and clay.

"These materials are not typically used to create fashion designs, which presented a particular challenge for artists," said Fales. "The weight of these actual materials along with figuring out a method to create a believable faux finish were unique problems to solve."

Drawing from Consider the Source, BAM challenged artists and designers to create wearable works of art. Designers could choose from six categories for inspiration: wood, paint, metal, paper, glass and clay. In addition, the designers also needed to exaggerate the quality of the material they selected through embellishments, finishes and other design elements.

As the looks came down the runway, delighted gasps were heard around the house.

click to enlarge Designers spent weeks perfecting their garments, down to the smallest details. - JACK Z PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Jack Z Photography
  • Designers spent weeks perfecting their garments, down to the smallest details.

"Watching the reactions of the guests is exhilarating," said Fales. "They wait with anticipation and are thrilled by each design."

Each category was introduced with looks created by local stylists Kellie Levesgue and Isidoro Almaraz. The category with the largest amount of entries was paper, with seven designs. Each design was unique, and the designers spent countless hours on their pieces, which were premiered on a runway set up in the BAM Indoor Sculpture Court.

"It took me weeks," said designer Ben Losinski. "I've been working the last two weeks nonstop."

Losinski's design, a halter-style dress made made from aluminum cans, was part of the metal category. Losinski cut the aluminum cans into scales and attached them to a metal mesh foundation to create the garment.

"I only cut my fingers twice," he said.

click to enlarge Sailors embellished her design with rolled fabric.  - JACK Z PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Jack Z Photography
  • Sailors embellished her design with rolled fabric.

Lady Teavana Delicious, a local drag queen, modeled the design.

The winner of the contest was chosen by the audience, who voted by placing wooden tokens (which came attached to the event programs) into boxes marked with each designer's name and a photo of their garment. There was also a certificate given for "excellent construction," which went to contestant Jess Roe, who submitted a design in the paper category. Roe's design was made with blush, white and red tissue paper that was twisted to look like roses. Finished, it resembled a silhouette pioneered by Christian Dior in the 1950s, but took on embellishments that looked like they came from the era of Raf Simons in the brand's history.

"Honestly, I am glad I didn't have to vote because it would have been tough to select a winner—there were so many creative and outstanding designs," said Fales.

The winner of the overall competition was Monica Sailors, who was the only contestant to enter the clay category. Sailors' design was modeled after a vase, with a skirt made of wire and fabric coated in clay. The rest of her design included rolled fabric and embellishments. Sailors' design will be available to view on the BAM website, and make an appearance in its newsletter and on social media.

Find a video showing all of the designs here.

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