Sunday, May 8, 2011

Motz-Swatches "Nature Puff" is a part of the imaginative and inspiring  "re:Dress - Sustainable Fashion Design" exhibit at the Michigan State University Museum.
Photos courtesy of MSU Department of Art and Art History

E. LANSING, MI --  Michigan State University Apparel and Textile Design students routinely design gowns and garments as class projects. Now they are getting an opportunity to design a whole exhibit built round this creative fashion flourish with "re:Dress - Sustainable Fashion Design" at the Michigan State University Museum.

Students were encouraged to follow a "cradle to cradle" philosophy, that is, considering the carbon footprint and social-responsibility directly connected to the raw materials, production, design, and second-life of the design beyond this exhibit. Some students used upcycled materials and recycled second-hand garments, created designs using zero-waste patterning, and found a "second-life" for their designs to have after the re:Dress exhibit.

"Students tackled the 'green' aspects of the design with different strategies," explains Theresa M. Winge, assistant professor in the Apparel and Textile Design Program in MSU's Art and Art History Department. "Some students chose to buy environmentally and socially responsible fabric, others chose to upcycle or recycle discarded or secondhand clothing and objects, and still others chose to use zero-waste patterning to maximize their fabric within their design decisions."

For "re:Dress," 42 designs were submitted to be evaluated by a jury of students and faculty, and 16 designs were selected, based on aesthetics, design process, innovation, creativity, and sustainability percentage.

The results are inspired, to be sure. One dress is re-purposed from a $5 discarded 1980s wedding dress, while a wedding dress was constructed using two former bridesmaids' dresses. Another made use of seven black shirts found at Goodwill and Volunteers of America to turn them into full-length gown.  On the more experimental side, students crimped, coiled, lashed and braided any number of unconventional materials: latex gloves, a luggage belt, corn husks, bubble wrap, beer cans, lottery tickets, bicycle tires and telephone cords, just to name a few.

"Artfully executed, these designs could walk down the red carpet for the MTV Awards, the Grammys, or the Oscars," Winge notes.

In fact, they have. Last year, a number of MSU Apparel and Textile Design studio students took part in a national "Red Carpet Green Design" competition, and MSU student Jillian Granz won the competition and designed the Oscar gown for James Cameron's wife, Suzy Amis Cameron for the 2010 Academy Awards.

"Seeing how the apparel industry addresses green issues is fascinating and informative," adds Mary Worrall, assistant curator of folk arts at the MSU Museum and one of the exhibit's organizers. "The creativity of design is amazing and the fact that the design addresses issues of sustainability makes these garments really relevant to worldwide concerns of a healthy, sustainable environment."

Not only did the students create the fashions for the exhibit, but they created the exhibit itself. Students are assisting in preparing and installing exhibit components, from writing "interpretive" text that describes the process of creating their dresses, to producing wall graphics, multimedia, print pieces and exterior banners. The MSU student group of AIGA (professional association for design) has been collaborating with the Apparel and Textile Design students on this installation throughout the year, led by faculty advisor Kelly Salchow MacArthur, and student representatives Danielle McHale and Elise Androkites.

In addition to the exhibitions that grow from its collections and curators' research, the MSU Museum works with MSU faculty and students around campus to explore new topics and innovative ways to present them. The MSU Museum provides experimental space for these short-run exhibits that can present a range of topics where artifacts or specimens and conventional story-telling are side-by-side with new-media technology, artistic installation pieces and performance works.

"re:Dress" runs through July 1.

The MSU Museum is Michigan's natural science and culture museum and the state's first Smithsonian Institution affiliate.  The MSU Museum -- accredited by the American Association of Museums -- collects, preserves, studies and interprets cultural artifacts and natural history specimens, with collections numbering more than 1 million in four buildings on the MSU campus.  One of the oldest museums in the Midwest, the MSU Museum is committed to education, exhibitions, research and the building and stewardship of collections that focus on Michigan and its relationship to the Great Lakes and the world beyond.

The MSU Museum features three floors of special collections and changing exhibits and is open seven days a week free of charge (donations are encouraged).  Located on West Circle Drive next to Beaumont Tower on the MSU campus, the MSU Museum is accessible to persons with disabilities. Hours are Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. -5 p.m.; and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. Visitor parking is available in front of the building and at metered spaces at the Grand River Ramp, one block away at the corner of Grand River Avenue and Charles Street. For more information, call (517) 355-2370 or see .

May 8, 2011 - May 21, 2011 Edition


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