by Sarah Ewald
Some designers in this year’s Art to Wear show are taking inspiration from the elements. Two designers in particular are working with water.
Natalie Bunch, a landscape architecture major in the College of Design, was specifically drawn to water’s various properties when she studied in Ghana last summer. Her studio was focused on observations dealing with solutions on improving the environmental systems. She cites drainage canals along every street and trash dumps lining the beach, and how the Ghanaian population connected water systems with sewage systems. Bunch aims to change the prevailing mindset by visually showing how water should be celebrated.
“There’s a way to change [the perspective], and respect water,” Bunch says. She’ll focus on water’s various attributes, such as adaptive, cyclical and aesthetic properties.
“I wanted to give a fresh outsider perspective [on water], and change the perspective on the Ghanaian people,” Bunch says, adding that she didn’t encounter much interest in water systems among the Ghanaians she met.
Bunch began sketching out ideas while still in Ghana, and then began constructing them this spring. She’s preparing five looks, with two of them being menswear. She is using both bought and found materials, including non-wovens, pre-dyed fabrics and fabrics she’s dyed herself. With her range of techniques and fabrics, Bunch is clearly ambitious and plans to showcase that fact loud and clear, especially with her final piece.
Gennie Catastrophe is an art and design major in the College of Design who is interested in water—and Scandinavian fishermen. On a wall near her desk at Leazar design studio hangs many samples she’s experimented with, using her chosen palette of blue, gray, brown and white. I chatted with her about her line as she folded and pinned fabric to make strips that will eventually make up a jacket.
Catastrophe’s inspiration is different from the traditional heroic treatment of working out at sea.
“It’s not 1940s patriotism. It’s ‘we’re in the water and we’re really cold,’” Catastrophe says.
Catastrophe focuses on pretty, hand-made items, using Fair Isle and Erin knitting techniques. She’ll then juxtapose these with hard-edged, military-inspired details that will flow throughout the collection.
In planning her accessories, Catastrophe is applying her chemistry knowledge to achieve the effect she desires.
“I’m blackening them. Brass is made out of copper and zinc. I remembered back to kindergarten, shining up pennies with vinegar,” Catastrophe says, shaking a bowl of bullet casings so that they rattled around. “I basically splash them in bleach every night.”
Catastrophe will use these and silver washers to construct jewelry to complement her looks. She’s also planning on using a lone male model to drive home the military secondary theme. Catastrophe is working on her third and fourth looks of the show. She hopes to send six looks out for the show, or seven if all goes exceptionally well.
Catastrophe’s line has been very labor-intensive. In addition to knitting a dress by hand and weaving fabric for another, she’s also showing a midnight-blue dress that features sturdy, coiled rope snaking along the bust and bodice.
“The night before the jurying, I was here from one in the afternoon until seven the next morning, and I came back at 10,” Catastrophe says. The finished dress uses 50 yards of rope, making it very heavy for the average person. Catastrophe notes that her model walks very well wearing it, and has been a good sport about it.
In keeping with the Scandinavian penchant for flowing locks made popular by Hans Christian Andersen’s mermaid, Catastrophe plans for her models to have long hair, and to wear them in braids.
Through all her work, Catastrophe says her collection has definitely been worth it.
“It’s fun to see it evolve. I’ve never worked multiple garments off of one inspiration,” Catastrophe says.