Three designers explain how iconcept fashion show guidelines inspire them to go outside the box.
Most art is hung in galleries, but some creative minds hang it in their closet.
This year, 22 unconventional outfits by 19 designers will hit the runway at iconcept, the annual fundraiser for Art Center Sarasota that challenges local creatives to come up with a couture outfit made of only 25% fabric. The rest has to be made of materials that generally wouldn’t qualify as clothing — but resemble it nonetheless.
Now in its ninth year, iconcept is an event that continues to challenge and award both its organizers and participants. Art Center Sarasota Executive Director Lisa Berger says one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that the event remains fresh by showcasing designs that have never been done before. Although it’s not uncommon for artists to re-use materials in a new way, each designer brings a unique perspective to his or her creation — the obstacle fuels their creativity.
“They know it’s a lot of work,” says Berger. “They know they’re not going to get paid for this, but it’s about the challenge and using their creativity and problem-solving skills to figure out how to make unconventional material into something wearable.”
We can’t reveal the outfits before the show, but a few designers offered us a sneak peek into their process.
It takes a great deal of creativity and patience to be part of iconcept — but it’s not necessary to have a background in art or fashion.
Andrea Silvergleit was originally drawn to become a part of the show when she served as an iconcept volunteer for several years. It wasn’t until she told Berger she wanted to give it a try and was met with positive reinforcement that she decided to go for it.
Now on her fourth iconcept creation, Silvergleit was determined to create something completely unlike what she’s done in the past, so she looked to a friend who makes the machines that produce the packaging material, Stand Up Pouch, and asked for materials. She left with a roll of pouches and an idea to slice and curl all of the sections into a skirt.
Like most of the designers, she had to modify her plan when she realized her idea was simply impossible. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get the pieces to curl, so she decided to layer about 20 pouch slices on top of one another and create a skirt she hopes will flutter as it goes down the runway, creating a living piece of art.
Silvergleit, a property manager, found her model after walking into her office and seeing a tenant eating Activia. She made her first dress out of yogurt containers.
For her, being a part of iconcept is a means of proving to herself that she can do things that she never dreamed she could. She hopes people enjoy her outfit, but she’s happy with finishing a garment that makes it down the runway and back in one piece.
“Just do it,” she says to anyone interested. “If you feel like there’s something in you — even if it comes out like a 2-year-old made it, which is usually what I think of mine — finding that and doing it is a great process.”
Andrea Dasha Reich
Andrea Dasha Reich is a newcomer to the show, but a veteran to the art and fashion scenes. Born in Prague as the daughter of Holocaust survivors who were forced to uproot to Jerusalem, Reich developed a deep appreciation for color when she moved from her communist homeland to sunny Israel.
Her love of color is especially evident after taking a walk through her lively exhibit at Art Center Sarasota, but even more clear when given a glimpse at her iconcept 2017 creation.
The garment is a vibrant combination of gold paired with various hues of pink and orange, the latter of which she added with spray paint.
Reich says the floor-length skirt, corset-like bodice and floral headdress are all inspired by the geometric, lacy shapes characteristic of Turkish dresses — particularly those worn by famous storyteller Scheherazade from “One Thousand and One Nights.”
The story of the dress and its beginning in an open-air market in the Middle East make it sound like a Scheherazade tale. During a trip to Jerusalem last year, Reich said she was struck by the gold color of so many of the items she saw, and she found herself drawn to a plastic lace tablecloth that would later become the bodice of her iconcept piece.
“I buy things everywhere, “ she says. “If I see anything interesting, I just buy it. I’m a hoarder ... but I use everything.”
Determined to make the material work, but overwhelmed by the amount of work it required, Reich recruited graphic designer Katie Harrison to help. Harrison cut the pieces and sewed, and Reich painted them, experimenting with several techniques throughout the month of December.
Reich was a fashion designer for 30 years before she switched to creating the resin artwork she’s best known for today. Until beginning the plans for the garment in November, it had been 20 years since the last piece of fashion she designed.
When asked the biggest difference between designing fashion and art, Reich says there is none.
“I can’t separate the two,” she says. “It’s just a different material, but the creativity is the same.”
For many of the other artists in the show, the garment is a canvas, Reich says. She does not view her dress as a canvas — it’s moving art.
All it took was a walk through her garage for Marcia Ente to find most of the material she would use for her eighth iconcept garment.
Ente’s outfit is made of garbage bags, plastic construction fence, pipe cleaners and rhinestones, all held together by staples and duct tape.
“I wanted to take something as inelegant as construction fence and try to make it elegant,” she says.
A high-low plastic skirt and slinky garbage-bag halter top were not part of the original plan, however. Ente originally had her mind set on a form-fitting dress made of pipe cleaners, but after spending countless hours weaving the pieces by hand, she realized she needed to go in a new direction.
She knew she didn’t want to sew anything, so she grabbed a black belt, wrapped it in garbage bags and started looping the construction fence through.
Ente came up with the idea in early January and created her first prototype in a day. After getting feedback from a friend and her model, however, she decided that it needed a little something to help it pop, and she found the perfect solution in stick-on rhinestones.
Along with finding a way to keep the rhinestones on, Ente says the biggest challenge was creating an outfit that looks like something somebody could wear, which designers were told should be their goal.
“It’s kind of amazing what you can get away with when you really want to,” she says.
Ente’s creation will be modeled by her friend Jeane Houndsome, a jewelry designer who will also be modeling some of her own creations on the iconcept runway.