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Arts and Entertainment Thursday, Sep. 14, 2017 2 months ago

Trend Setters: iconcept jr. participants put their imagination to the test

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Young designers challenged their creative instincts by designing an outfit out of recycled materials for the upcoming iconcept jr. fashion show.
by: Niki Kottmann Managing Editor of Arts and Entertainment

Artistic inspiration can strike at any moment — even when cleaning.

That’s what happened for Nolan Welch, one of the 22 participants in the second annual iconcept jr., an Art Center Sarasota fashion show fundraiser that takes place at noon, Sunday, Sept. 24 at the center for $25 to $50. Participants are challenged with creating an outfit using majority recycled materials, then modeling it for guests at the show.

Welch was cleaning her grandma’s cabinets when she found a collection of muffin and cupcake wrappers and balloons left over from her fourth-grade birthday party. Being the creative 10-year-old she is, she decided these would make the perfect dress skirt.

Art Center Sarasota Executive Director Lisa Berger created iconcept jr. last year for young people who are interested in an atypical creative outlet. She believes it’s important to encourage children to be creative because it’s a vital skill that will stick with them.

Many young artists think of the show as their moment to shine.

Nolan Welch's iconcept jr. outfit is made of mostly duct tape, balloons and muffin/cupcake wrappers. Photo by Niki Kottmann

Katerina Sommers, 10, is new to iconcept jr. this year. But she’s no stranger to the runway. Sommers walked in the adult iconcept show with her mother a few years ago, and ever since, she’s loved the feeling of having all eyes on her.

Sommers says she’s not nervous about the show and is excited to show off her dress. The challenge came in creating it.

Sommers’ dress is made of Post-it notes and the hang tag labels of  products her mom sells at her store, Nutritious You. To put it together, she and her mother, Marina,  first attached a hoop meant for floral decorations to a T-shirt, serving as the foundation of the dress.

Then, they folded the labels and layered them, reinforcing them with hot glue. In total, they made 40 vertical strips of labels and attached them to the floral ring.

“Trying to make something that will fit a body using unconventional materials is a challenge,” Berger says.

She’s impressed by what the kids can create, and she says their hard work is worth it in the end.

The top of Sommers’ dress wasn’t as difficult, because it’s Post-its layered on the shirt with the help of more hot glue, but it’s the least comfortable part.

“I have to stay straight, I can’t bend over,” Sommers says of her dress-wearing technique. “I don’t like when I have to put my arms down, because the sticky notes are very itchy.”

Ava Abreu, 12, chose a more comfort-based approach.

Her base is made of a cami, leggings and leg warmers. On top is a gold skirt made of a curtain that Abreu sewed with the help of a volunteer at the art center’s Fashion Bootcamp this summer.

But what truly makes the outfit is the series of stuffed teddy bears that are attached to her limbs.

Abreu’s outfit inspiration comes from her love of bears, particularly Rilakkuma, a fictional Japanese brown bear who also inspired the color scheme of her ensemble, which took somewhere between four and five hours to make.

Ava Abreu’s iconcept jr. outfit is covered in stuffed bears attached with rubber bands. Photo by Niki Kottmann

Abreu enjoys iconcept jr. because she loves how open she can be with her creativity.

“You can do whatever you want to do,” she says. “There’s no limits.”

Berger agrees. She says creativity is just one of the many skills that the experience helps participants develop.

“Thinking creatively, following through with a commitment to the project, getting work done on time, meeting new friends, overcoming fears, putting yourself out there in front of an audience without tripping or having your outfit fall apart – all good skills!”

Welch chose to do iconcept jr. again because she made many friends at the show last year — and she’s always wanted an excuse to make something out of duct tape.

Along with the balloons and cupcake wrappers, Welch used yarn and pink spray paint to make her flower-adorned dress. The top is made of a pillowcase that she cut into a T-shirt and covered with the duct tape.

“It’s really fun to make things out of everyday materials,” she says.

Welch loves to sew — she once hand-sewed a skirt that she wore out to dinner — and she thinks she’ll continue to make her own clothes for fun.

Berger says regardless of whether the participants want to go into fashion as a career, they’ll benefit from designing for iconcept jr. She wishes more residents would realize the importance of the event and how it’s much more than a kid’s craft project.

“It takes guts to express yourself in wearable art then model it in a fashion show in front of a big audience,” she says. “I have a lot of respect for all of them because they are brave enough to try.”

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