Georgina Gozum’s Mod Sack Dress and Pina Strap DressGeorgina Gozum’s Mod Sack Dress, organic cotton eyelet (with organic cotton batiste lining) and Pina Strap Dress, organic pineapple fiber, embroidered, ECO + FASHION, Art Gallery at City Hall

ECO + FASHION, The Art Gallery at City Hall

“For this exhibition, creatives were invited to submit works that address the issues of sustainability and eco-consciousness in the context of fashion and wearable art. Artists and designers responded by submitting works created from sustainable materials, addressing sustainability as a practice; some challenging our definition of fashion itself, while others presented wearable eco-friendly works.”

The 18 participating artists are:
 Ellen Benson & Paulette Heilbrun, Lucy Bigham, Katie Coble, Mary DeMarco, Georgina Gozum, Lesley Haas, Melissa Madonni Haims, Donnetta Irvis, Marilyn Lavins, Joanne Litz, Lauren Marsella, Sienna Martz, Maria Nevelson, Bernice Paul, Eva Preston, Katya Roelse, Kendal Wilkins and Natalie Zuk.

ECO + FASHION was juried by Joan K. Smith, a local independent curator and member of the Art in City Hall Advisory Committee.  The committee is made of local arts professionals and is currently chaired by Amie Potsic, Executive Director for the Main Line Art Center. Art in City Hall presents exhibitions that showcase contemporary artwork by emerging and professional visual artists from the Philadelphia region. Encompassing a variety of mediums, techniques, and subjects, this municipal program is committed to presenting a diversity of ideas and artistic explorations.

Melissa Madonni Haims, Plarn Dress, plastic bags, ECO+FASHION, Art Gallery at City HallMelissa Madonni Haims, Plarn Dress, plastic bags, ECO+FASHION, Art Gallery at City Hall

The opening reception for ECO + FASHION was held January 8th, on the verge of the Polar Vortex, and even though it was very cold outside, the opportunity to dress up was not missed by Philadelphia’s art fashionistas. I love seeing people dressed up in Philadelphia. It was especially fun to see artists that I know are included in the show: Marilyn Lavins, Melissa Maddonni Haims, Georgina Gozum and ECO + FASHION was curated by Philadelphia top blogger Joan Smith. Marilyn Lavins wore a fabulous necklace of her own design, Georgina was thrilled with the press release on DoNArTNeWs (which was written by Tu Huyhn of Art in City Hall) and Art in City Hall Committee member Ona Kalstein, even though her foot was in an orthopedic boot, looked like a Moon Maiden in a green top and pants, one sleeve artfully slashed. The fashions on display are futuristic in that they look to recycle old materials, design compelling and new silhouettes and yet are imaginably wearable.

Georgina Gozum’s Mod Sack Dress is hip and iconic, the simple shape and innocent material time trip to the Summer of Love. Melissa Madonni Haims, Plarn Dress also has a deceptively sweet silhouette, a summery and crafty crocheted sun dress made from ‘Plarn’, plastic bag yarn. Katya Roelse‘s Long Dress made from silk voile and silk linen blends is elegant yet intellectual with fluid architectural construction and imaginative pattern. There are many wearable pieces in the show but that’s not necessarily what curator Joan Smith was looking for with this collection.

Katya Roelse, ECO+FASHION, Art Gallery at City HallKatya Roelse, ECO+FASHION, Art Gallery at City Hall

Joan Smith explains the process of selecting fashions for the ECO + FASHION show.

“The show was curated digitally. Luckily, most of the people entering really gave great shots. They gave multiple views, they gave open and closed views and it made it easy to visualize. That was a concern, it’s like bringing 3D work from slides. like “are you seeing the whole thing?’ But people were great, it’s something more people should do, is to provide three or four detail slides.”

How many pieces did you have to choose from?

“I think there were sixty or so, I looked at them about a month and half ago. You know what? The show was conceived by the committee months and months ago and we decided to leave the rules loose and variable so we could see how people would interpret it. So, for each piece I was looking to see how it somehow spoke about eco and fashion, not just a random connection. That there was a kind of a connection in a different way, whether it was natural materials or whether it was the construction. And then the quality of work. I have a fashion background and I was looking for things that have fashion qualities. It has to be striking and fashionably beautiful.”

Were you thinking, ‘Wearable?’

“No, absolutely not. It wasn’t a criteria. We knew that some works would be strictly pieces of art interpreted, so that wasn’t a consideration. But most of these pieces are wearable. Which is kind of cool.”

Why don’t people dress like this all the time?

“Wouldn’t that be nice?”

Ona Kalstein has a unique style, would you say there’s a Philly fashion style?

“Does Philly have a style? I don’t think there is because when I go outside the city, say I go to New York, I don’t see a wide variation. You have the same range of people; you have the super-conservative people and the creative art types, which are the most fun.”

Ellen Benson & Paulette HeilbrunKatie Coble, Knit Series – Problem Solver, gray string, tube knit, handsewn, Gown Series – At the Race, rayon, handpainted silk, ECO+FASHION, Art Gallery at City Hall

Katie Coble is a visual artist and designer currently residing in Philadelphia, PA. Katie’s work relates to performance in both Fashion and Costume Design. Her interest lies in how one’s body interacts with the space it inhabits.” – Katie Coble

Marilyn Lavins, Bird's Nest Necklace, mixed media, metal, pearls, ECO+FASHIONMarilyn LavinsBird’s Nest Necklace, mixed media, metal, pearls, ECO+FASHIONArt Gallery at City Hall

“The metal material used in the Bird’s Nest Necklace relates to ecology by it’s inherent substance out of which a thing is made relating to the science metals. Metals are a specific hard alloy used in an art or trade; it is opaque, can be fused and is usually malleable. The metal necklace underwent a transformation by abrupt change in appearance.

The pearls in the necklace usually relate to some mollusks and sea mussels that form a dense and lustrous concretion formed of concentric layers of nacre as an abnormal growth within the shell of mollusks and used as a gem.” – Marilyn Lavins

Ellen Benson & Paulette Heilbrun, Super Girl, vintage jeans dress and recycled t-shirts, ECO+FASHION, Art Gallery at City HallEllen Benson & Paulette HeilbrunSuper Girl, vintage jeans dress and recycled t-shirts, ECO+FASHIONArt Gallery at City Hall

“One of the great things about being an artist is that you can dress outrageously, colorfully, outlandishly, crazily – and it’s encouraged or even expected, especially because I am a Dumpster diva/member of the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers!

At our annual awards banquet we’ve been known to wear recycled – from old prom gowns and tuxedos to crowns made from bowling trophies, or coats made from sweaters. For the Fringe Festival one year, Eva wore a dress of newspapers and Jamie a glamorous gown made from plastic trash bags.” – Ellen Benson

Ellen Benson & Paulette Heilbrun, Super Girl, vintage jeans dress and recycled t-shirts, ECO+FASHION, Art Gallery at City HallEllen Benson & Paulette Heilbrun, Super Girl, vintage jeans dress and recycled t-shirts, ECO+FASHION, Art Gallery at City Hall

The Super Girl dress is like a fashion collage, mixing memes and metaphors like magazine clippings, instead using items of clothing that are saturated with history and information in the same way as printed images. The Super Girl dress transforms the wearer into a Time Lord, tapping into fashion history and legends to create a fashion statement that is Dada, hippie, grungy and elegant all at once, mixing time, tastes and trends in a deft combination of materials and patterns. The Dumpster Divers are known for their ability to transform trash into treasures, with Super Girl, Ellen and Paulette tap the vein of the idea of collage with a needle and thread and thrift store fashion finds.

Joanne Litz, Scrap Dress, assembled from sweater knit clippings, Pony Project Vest/Poncho, re-purposed silk, cotton, linen, skirts, ECO+FASHIONJoanne Litz, Scrap Dress, assembled from sweater knit clippings, Pony Project Vest/Poncho, re-purposed silk, cotton, linen, skirts, ECO+FASHION, Art Gallery at City Hall

“I have always been fascinated by fiber, fabric and fashion. Start with sewing and knitting for Barbie and the gang, through graduating High School, I knew it was my passion and eventual career.” – Joanne Litz

Eva Preston, ECO+FASHION, Art Gallery at City HallEva Preston, ECO+FASHION, Art Gallery at City Hall, Philadelphia City Hall, Broad and Market Streets, Room 116, through February 28th, 2014

Eva Preston is also a Philadelphia Dumpster Diver artist, mixing materials to create desirable fashion accessories like her popular handbags. The display case outside of Room 116 at Philadelphia City Hall holds her James Brown hand bag, comic book collaged men’s shoes and comic collaged doctor’s satchel. I asked the artist if she thought Philly had a fashion style?

“I think Philly has a style all it’s own. Fashion wise, we’re a collective of artists, designers, trash picking and so for us it’s a great show, it’s perfect! We’re conscious people with a conscious mission. We all play together nicely”

I agree but I think there’s more of a fashion sense in the city than when you leave the city. If you know what I mean? I know a lot of fashion is homogenized but it seems like people try a little harder in town to look good.

“It might be. We also have a natural kind of knack from living with so many types of people in the city and many people travel. So you’ve got travel and textiles, then you’ve got art styles. Philly has a style it’s always had and then you have new people coming in, so it’s perfect. I think we’re a city of fun in fashion.”

Read more about ECO + FASHION on DoNArTNeWs Philadelphia Art News Blog.

Written and photographed by DoN Brewer except where noted.

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