ArtFul Living

With Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky
Healthy Planet Arts Editor

Art and Fashion…

Together they create intimate art, art that can be worn, art that can be touched.

As models strut the fashion runways around the world, there’s no doubt that what they wear is cutting-edge art. Those very oh-so-haute couture creations are then tamed down a bit and marketed to the masses. We see the opposite end of the spectrum as well. It wasn’t too many years ago when “wearable art” at craft shows was defined by sequin-embellished sweatshirts or tie-dyed t-shirts. Art, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

Although I make no comment in this column on the latest fashion trends, ARTful living must encompass fashion. As readers of this column know, there’s always a slight twist to the obvious.

The exploration of the craft of fashion, the art of fashion and the art that references fashion is the purpose of Fashion Lab, founded by Craft Alliance’s Director of Development and Communication Saskya Emmink-Byron. The group hosts five or six public events annually, including exhibitions, lectures and trunk shows in partnership with Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and Laumeier Sculpture Park.

On September 19, British fashion designer Kate Fletcher will speak about fashion, sustainability and the “craft of use” at Washington University’s Steinberg Auditorium in a program entitled, “Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change.” Says Emmink-Byron, “We are so excited Kate Fletcher is coming to St. Louis! It is because of Craft Alliance’s partnership with the Sam Fox School and the support of Alison and John Ferring that we are able to bring such a high profile designer and speaker to our YARN series. Kate is one of the founders of the ‘slow fashion’ movement, an instigator of directional sustainability projects. She will introduce us to an entirely different aspect of fashion which will be very interesting, perhaps even mind-blowing!”

Dr. Kate Fletcher is not only a Slow Fashion consultant, she is a Reader in Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion. A highly respected pioneer in the field of eco-fashion and a founder of the “slow fashion” movement, for the past twenty years Fletcher has worked tirelessly to bring sustainable fashion to the forefront. Her focus on sustainable fashion is personal. Making her own clothes since a young teenager, Fletcher intuitively understands that fashion is “so much more than fabric and thread: identity, formation, creative expression, communication….” If the old cliché of “clothes makes the man” isn’t completely true, it certainly is true that clothes portray the personality of the wearer.

The term “Slow Fashion” was coined by Fletcher in 2007 to shift the fashion world from “quantity to quality.” (Dr. Fletcher could probably advise us all on some closet purging!). She caused designers around the world to “investigate alternative materials and to link pleasure and fashion with awareness and responsibility. In a critical paper written for The Ecologist that same year, Fletcher stated, “[Slow] is simply a different approach in which designers, buyers, retailers and consumers are more aware of the impacts of products on workers, communities and ecosystems.  [It] is about a richer interaction between designer and maker; maker and garment; garment and user.”

Fletcher has written over fifty scholarly and popular publications plus two books. Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys (2008) is “the” textbook for studios and academic institutions worldwide. Additionally, Fletcher is actively engaged with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion at the House of Lords in Great Britain, using her expertise to help guide national policy.

“By learning more about where our clothing comes from, what it takes to make and how far it travels to market, we can see the larger picture of a garment’s true lifecycle and environmental impact,” said Fletcher. “We also learn more about the types of materials used, how to care for our garments properly…..Learning about the world around us is the first step to understanding our connection to what we buy and our responsibility to act.” The free lecture begins at 6:30 p.m.

I would be remiss if I didn’t shamelessly plug a St. Louis favorite. Dancing in the Street brings over 1,000 dancers tapping, tangoing, hip-hopping and swinging to Grand Center (between Lindell and Delmar) on September 29. It’s free and it’s wonderful. If you’ve attended before, you KNOW you want to return. If you’ve never attended, you simply MUST be there when the music starts.  Whether you’re a dancer or a watcher, I promise you’ll want to stay until the very end! This annual event  is outdoors, 1-8 p.m. For details, call 314-289-1517 or visit online at www.grandcenter.org.