Trash fashion gets new life at the Wearable Art Awards
If there’s one thing Anne Hathaway’s poorly placed bust darts on Oscar night have taught us, it’s that people really pay attention to clothes. One misguided wardrobe choice and you’re making headlines for all the wrong reasons for months to come. Conversely, one well-executed dress and you’re a media darling with a promising career in show biz. (Remember how Elizabeth Hurley was a virtual no-name before she rocked that Versace safety pin number on the red carpet?)
But the power of garments isn’t limited to the vacuous world of celebrity fashion hits and misses—clothing can also be a medium of expression. Perhaps no one knows this better than the visual artists who were recently honoured at the Wearable Art Awards in Port Moody, for which people from all over the world submitted thought-provoking creations intended for the human body. The live performances have come and gone, but the winning pieces will remain on exhibit at the Port Moody Arts Centre (2425 St. Johns Street) until March 17.
Judged on originality, concept, and construction, there are 10 awards, including those for best headdress, material of the year, and “Second Life”. That last one goes to the most inventive use of repurposed materials, a genre of design artistry often referred to as trash fashion. Vancouver artist Lorraine Kwan won top prize in this category for her Celtic Keyboard, a two-piece entry consisting of a kilt made from pleated layers of keyboard underlay (those rubbery nipple things) and a vest of keyboard keys strung together. Is it pretty? Not so much. Is it a compelling way of grabbing someone’s attention with an important message? Definitely.
“It’s saying ‘reuse’,” explains Kwan, calling from her Dunbar home studio. “I’m big on recycling. So if you see something discarded and you think it could serve a purpose as something else, go with it.”
Another big Wearable Arts winner was Salomeh Honarmand. She won in two categories, including colour of the year for her Wooden Pieces of Joy. With more than a thousand recycled wood chips spray-painted gold and silver, Honarmand created an outfit fit for a futuristic space warrior. While this was a solo project, her other winning piece, Soul of the City (which tied with Dana Cho’s Blooming Picture), was a group effort. Once a week for three months, Honarmand and fellow artists Helen Daniels and Jillian Hull would meet to work on ideas for their entry in the Centennial 100 category. The result was an imposing headdress made from a recycled book, paper, silk, and spray paint. It’s meant as a tribute to PoMo’s 100th birthday and the eclectic mix of artists who call it home.
For an accomplished multidisciplinary artist like Honarmand, making pieces for a living, breathing person to wear has given her an opportunity to convey her creative messages in a more interactive way than simply showing her work in a gallery.
“It’s the language of the body and the movement of the body,” Honarmand says. “For me, it’s a new way to communicate with the audience.”
As for Kwan, she’s completed several other wearable pieces since the Port Moody awards. But she’s reluctant to pigeonhole this latest passion as a “new” direction.
“I’m 68,” she says wryly. “I go wherever life leads me, and right now it’s trash fashion.”