Sustainability is certainly in fashion these days, but not usually on the fashion runway. One exception is a head-turning garment created by the United States Green Building Council-MN for this year’s Fusion + Fashion event November 13, 2015 at Muse Event Center in Minneapolis.
“Harnessing an Invisible Force,” the USGBC-MN team’s swirling tribute to wind energy, took the award for Most Unique Building Material at the tenth annual event, hosted by the International Interior Design Association Northland Chapter. The non-traditional runway
show challenges competing teams to create couture ensembles inspired by our built environment; and strongly encourages the use of materials and finishes from the building industry in the garment. A total of 23 teams comprised of students and professionals from architecture, design, construction, fashion and other disciplines created ensembles for this year’s theme, “Find Your Muse.”
Competing on the USGBC-MN team for the second consecutive year, KA Project Assistant Jennifer Brundell filled in some of the details about the team’s entry.
Q: Talk about your team’s design concept.
BRUNDELL: We wanted something that would reflect USGBC-MN’s values. Our original inspiration was renewable energy, but we wanted to narrow it down to wind power – more specifically focusing on the wind turbine as a source of clean, renewable energy.
Our design translated this simple, streamlined structure through materials that reflect the same features with emphasis on harnessing the power of wind. It’s so simple, yet so powerful. Staying in line with the values of USGBC-MN, the concept of clean energy will reflect a healthy and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life and transforms the way structures and communities are designed.
Q: What sorts of building materials were incorporated into the design? How were these supplied?
BRUNDELL: We integrated recyclable materials throughout the design. Our gown featured sheet metal in the belt and spiral, sponsored by Metropolitan Mechanical Contractors (MMC). Svelte, an acoustical wall fabric sponsored by BOLYU was layered on the back of the belt to protect the model. Svelte contains 95% post consumer recycled, solution-dyed PET content and is 100 % recyclable. For the makeup we used PET Pellets glued to the model’s face, and carpet yarn was integrated into her hair. Both were sponsored by Tandus Centiva. What’s neat about this is that the PET pellets are made from recycled plastics, which are then fabricated to make the carpet yarn, and after the carpet has been recycled, it is then used to make svelte as noted below. So we had a whole Cradle to Cradle (C2C) design (or closed loop production), integrated into our design.
We also used some beaded wallpaper left over from a residential project, for the cuffs around the model’s wrists and for the diamond-shaped accent at the top of the dress. The gown material itself was normal clothing fabric– chiffon for its lightweight, flowing qualities; and some leftover sateen.
Q: You even incorporated building materials into the model’s hair and makeup!
BRUNDELL: We went with an 80’s look as the first wind farms in the U.S. were built in the 1980’s (our song was “Rock You Like a Hurricane” to go with the 80’s theme and is a play on the power of wind). Big hair, don’t care!
Q: How heavy was that metal spiral? How did you engineer it?
BRUNDELL: It was around 10-15 pounds, but we were able to create a strong belt and side supports that made the weight bearable. Our concern was more the height and sturdiness of the piece, which we were able to accomplish with side supports made from lightweight, but sturdy garden sticks. This also gave our model something to hold on to and control if it did move as she was walking.
Q: What did you learn from participating in last year’s Fusion +Fashion competition that was incorporated into this year’s entry?
BRUNDELL: Unlike other teams where all team members are typically from the same firm, our group is comprised of individuals from a variety of companies/colleges, so it’s more difficult to find times for our team to meet up and work on the ensemble. Because of this (and how we worked last year), we knew we’d have to create a design that was simple and that we could work with in pieces so that individuals could take parts home and work on them. This reasoning alone helped determine our muse/design, which was clean and simple.
Q: Did you have some of the same people on your team this time?
BRUNDELL: Yes, we had seven team members this year, four of whom were on the team last year: Christine Hoene, our model, with Design Innovations; Lynn Skowronski with Senior Lifestyle Design, Marlene Hernick with MOH Design, LLC, and me. And, we were excited to have three new members join our team this year who have backgrounds in fashion design:
Elizabeth Mauban- an electrical engineer at LHB with her own fashion blog; Cobilee West and Anyse Mellott – fashion design students at The Art Institutes International.
Q: What was the overall time commitment like?
BRUNDELL: We did not track our hours, but our team only met nine times. The first six meetings (about two hours each ) were a lot of brainstorming, sketching, and figuring out what are materials would be and the best way to construct the piece. The last three meetings were actually constructing the metal piece and making sure the measurements for the actual dress fit the model. These were about three hours each.
Q: This is obviously a lot of effort. What, to you, is the payoff?
BRUNDELL: It’s a lot of work and very intense, but it’s a great team building experience and the show itself is very rewarding and worth every effort you put into your design. Over 900 tickets were sold to the show this year, which really shows how supportive and strong our network is within the building and design industry. This show is also a great marketing tool as has become a way to creatively build awareness of not only USGBC-MN but also the other companies each of our team members are affiliated with.