Art2Wear Designers Draw on K-pop, Cults for Inspiration
by. Joshua Aelick
At first glance, cultists and Korean pop music might not appear to have much in common. But clothing designers at Art2Wear 2019 found inspiration in both.
Art2Wear, which took place April 26 in Talley Student Union, is an annual event hosted by North Carolina State University’s College of Design. Each year, student designers showcase their personal fashion collections in a full runway show.
This year, the official theme of Art2Wear was “circularity,” according to Precious Lovell, Associate Professor in the Fibers concentration of Art and Design, as well as faculty advisor for Art2Wear 2019.
Students who wanted to design for Art2Wear took a class with Lovell in the preceding semester in order to begin working out the basis for their collections. During Lovell’s class, one central task was thinking about circularity in terms of sustainability.
“In my class, we had sustainability as our guide for circularity,” Lovell said. “With circularity, it’s talking specifically about circular fashion, which means being able to perpetually recycle it, for it to keep going so it doesn’t end up in a landfill.”
On the other hand, sustainability is more versatile according to Lovell, “…in addition to environmental sustainability, it can be human sustainability. It can be cultural sustainability. It can be artisanal sustainability.”
Students began work on their collections by thinking about sustainability, but they soon branched out into other realms. An integral part of the design process was researching topics related to sustainability that also inspired them, Lovell noted.
Evan Smith, a junior in Art and Design and creator of the collection Counterfeit Paradise, found inspiration in the Jim Jones cult.
“The idea was to create a resort wear collection—paradise. The counterfeit part was, my original inspiration was actually the Jim Jones cult.” Smith said.
Smith created a collection of resort wear using a muted, pastel color palette and a patchwork aesthetic. He explained that this was all part of the plan.
“Everything that [members of the Jim Jones cult] wore was patchworked together,” because they “…moved to some random country with no plan.” Smith continued. “When they went down there, they were like… ‘We’re gonna be free.’ They were gonna live in this paradise where they can believe what they want to believe and do what they want to do. I wanted to kind of create a collection that embodies that or has that as a very background thought,” Smith said.
In other words, the “Paradise” part of Counterfeit Paradise draws on the beachy vibes his collection exuded. The other half, the “Counterfeit,” comes from the idea that the world the cult had envisioned for themselves was a fake. Their fate, of course, was far from paradisiacal.
Naturally, sustainability was an integral part of Smith’s collection as well. “The whole sustainability factor was a main part of why it looks how it does and how it was constructed,” Smith explained. So, everything except anything made of white fabric, is upcycled fabric, which means it’s mostly men’s dress shirts, denim jeans that got thrown away, or there’s a canvas that I actually found at a scrap exchange.”
The bags he designed to accompany the outfits were not necessarily sustainable, he pointed out, but they were hand-made and designed with longevity in mind.
Another designer at the event was Keshauna Williams, a senior in Art and Design with a concentration in Fibers. Her collection, Polaris, drew on both outer space and K-pop for inspiration.
Williams was irritated that it is difficult to see the stars in areas where population density is high. She wanted her collection to help people realize that this is a problem.
“Something that irks be about today’s society is the fact that we have so much pollution and we’re so distracted by technology that we don’t even pay attention to it,” she admitted. “What I wanted to do was try to find a way for people to be interested in actually cleaning up the environment, and so I decided to go with air.”
Once she had decided to work with clean air as her inspiration, she said, she moved on to the idea of space.
“I just wanted my collection to be something that would inspire people to want to look into the sky again and actually enjoy it. So I decided to go with space,” Williams said.
The cosmological inspiration for Williams’ work is obvious. Her dresses were studded with stones that twinkled like stars, and the models’ faces were painted with swirling blue and lavender nebulas.
However, of the inspirations for her pieces, space was not the most surprising. She also drew on Korean pop music, more commonly known as “K-pop,” when designing her collection.
“In K-pop, they’ll take really simple silhouettes and then they’ll just add a little umph to it to try to get people more interested. It’s all about the visuals for K-pop.” she said.
So, if sustainability and space are the substance of her collection, K-pop is the style. “I wanted to make a very visual collection that would inspire people to maybe, like look into cultures that weren’t very similar or familiar to them,” Williams emphasized.
Lovell noted that Williams’ collection was particularly sustainable and really keyed into the theme of circularity. “She hand-dyed all of her fabrics, then she hand-printed all of her prints—that’s of course in addition to designing them, making the patterns, draping, and constructing them—Everything you will see on the stage tonight started as a piece of white cloth.”
Even the freshmen’s paper art designs—displays of wearable paper clothing that preceded the main show—turned to intriguing places for inspiration.
Molly Mills, a freshman in Art and Design, said she was intrigued by the movement of the shoulders when walking. “It was interesting to see how a shoulder movement is accentuated when you walk, but the shoulder blade movement seems more subtle, and I wanted to try and bring that out, and kind of show the communication between the two movements.”
Bringing it out is certainly what she did. Mills’ piece resembled a giant pair of pauldrons attached to angel wings that swung back and forth as she walked, highlighting the dynamic action of her shoulders and back.
As important as the techniques required to physically create clothing designs are, it seems that unique sources of inspiration played an even more critical role in Art2Wear 2019. Without surprising influences like the Jim Jones cult or K-pop, the show might not have been what it was: impressive and absolutely stunning.
photos by Layla Peykamian