The 10th annual Fusion + Fashion design competition, hosted by the Northland Chapter of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), was held on November 13, 2015 at Muse Event Center in Minneapolis.
As the name implies, the competition/fundraiser fuses fashion and interior design by encouraging teams to create garments using construction materials. It’s like a Project Runway unconventional material challenge, but with more time.
I’ve mentioned Fusion in previous blog posts about fashion events in Minneapolis, but hadn’t had a chance to attend let alone compete until this past year. It was a really fun way to combine my career in building design with my interest in fashion.
The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Minnesota chapter sent an email looking for team participants and I quickly responded. For me, one of the major draws to a career in building design was investigating green building design practices in order to see past buzzwords and greenwashing to get to facts and what makes for good design.
Fitting to the venue, this year’s Fusion theme was “Find Your Muse”. I brought my interest in fashion to the table and started thinking of picking a designer like McQueen (which another team ended up doing) or a location like London, but that made me think of Stella McCartney which brought me to eco fashion to tie it back in to USGBC, then I thought to bring it back to local and thought of Yevette Willaert.
The rest of the team was more focused on the message of USGBC and started brainstorming ways to present a garment that promotes the USGBC mission: "to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.”
Our main idea focused on renewable energy - specifically wind energy. We went through several iterations of this theme, from a reversible jacket/cape with functioning solar panels, to a motorized wind turbine, and I think something with grass.
As a team, we decided to meet weekly. There were five of us at first - four girls who were either interior designers or had a background in interior design, and myself. A couple weeks in, I brought on two more team members - fashion students at the Arts Institutes International of Minnesota. I had met one of them, Cobilee, while volunteering at Tim and Thom Navarro’s LARK fashion show. She brought her roommate/best friend Anyse. Cobilee is also in support of a shift to eco/ethical fashion, which fit with the USGBC team.
Anyse Mellott - The Art Institutes International
Christine Hoene - Design Innovations
Cobilee West - The Art Institutes International
Elizabeth Mauban - LHB, Inc.
Jennifer Brundell - Kraus-Anderson
Lynn Skowronski - Senior Lifestyle Design
Marlene Hernick - MOH Design, LLC
Together, we pared down the ideas from previous meetings to be a simple dress with flowy chiffon surrounded by a structure resembling a vertical wind turbine.
From there we decided to run with the idea of “harnessing the invisible force" as our muse. Lynn found this really cool wind study that helped shape our design and general concept statement: http://hint.fm/wind/
We also wanted to somehow incorporate the glass of a LEED certification plaque, and planned to do so with a jacket or cape made from leftover glass bead wallpaper Christine had from a home improvement project.
Other building materials we obtained were recycled plastic pellets and yarn (donated by Tandus), and recycled plastic wall covering (Bolyu), scrap metal (and the labor to cut the pieces down were donated by Metropolitan Mechanical Contractors, Inc), and hinges/other items purchased from a hardware store. Chiffon and other fabrics were purchased as well. Additional donations from LHB were used for tickets to the event - team registration allows for a certain number of models/team representatives, additional attendees must be ticketed.
Cobilee and Anyse measured out patterns for the scrap metal and the pieces were cut by Jennifer’s contact for a project. Having dedicated people with experience in garment production tasked with making the dress proved really helpful - we didn’t have too many hands trying to do one thing or too too much pressure on one person, as I was told was something that had happened on past/other teams.
The wind turbine structure was a challenge. We wanted a metal that was lightweight enough to walk with and also to bend, but that flexibility meant giving up the ability to be rigid enough to support itself. Figuring out a structural support system (where the support points would be, would it be held with wire or with some type of rebar, how many points/pieces, would they be taped, glued, or screwed in, etc) and finally putting it together were definitely the more tense moments of construction.
We used strips of scrap metal that were twisted and rotated to form the turbine shape. The strips were fastened to a scrap metal belt that we lined with the recycled carpet wall covering, to make sure it didn’t scratch or otherwise injure Christine.
It was 10pm the night before the competition and our structure still wasn’t quite put together, but I hoped that the girls available the next day for finishing touches could make it work after some rest and with fresh eyes. (They did, with some help from an "invisible force" on a project site. Hint: in addition to some sturdier support sticks, it also involved good ol’ duct tape.)
The original idea of a cape/jacket made with the wallpaper didn’t quite work out, but backstage, some accessories were made with the material instead.
Runway music was chosen by each team and submit with other project requirements (like material and sponsor list, photos/video, inspiration, and concept statement) a few weeks before the event. We chose a song based on our wind theme - Scorpion’s “Rock You Like a Hurricane”.
Hair and makeup followed the wind theme and 80's vibe as well - we went with big dramatic hair and a monochromatic look, except for one accent color. Recycled plastic pellets were used on her face and the yarn was “tangled” in her hair. Eyeshadow and nail polish in a coordinating color were also used.
I loved the creativity on the runway! Our design was pretty cool, but there were some other absolutely amazing pieces on the runway that night. Minnesota creatives exist outside of the typical art/fashion/music realms, and into architecture and interior design so this was a great way to tie it all together.
After the runway show, I texted and social media-ed our vote code, but we did not win “People's Choice”. We did however win “Most Unique Building Material” for our use of scrap metal.
IIDA Northland Fusion + Fashion Winners 2015:
Overall, participating in the Fusion + Fashion competition was a fun experience I am happy to have been a part of. I will definitely have to evaluate my workload as the season draws nearer to decide if I will do it again - I would have liked to dedicate more time last year. If I do decide to participate again, I promise to blog about it sooner than five months after the fact 😜
Save the date for the 11th annual event - it will be held Friday, October 28th, 2016 at U.S. Bank Stadium.