The United States Green Building Council- MN team rocked the runway during Fusion+Fashion 2014. Really rocked it. The team’s fashion creation, “Rock Goddess,” channeled the red rocks of Colorado in a fantastic design rendered in a blend of reclaimed, recycled and natural materials that are more commonly seen in buildings, not on bodies. The event took place at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis Oct. 3.
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: this year’s theme was iconic musical venues. The competition strongly encourages the use of materials and finishes from the building industry in the garment, and entries are judged in categories including Best Interpretation of Musical Venue, Best Stage Presence, Most Avant Garde and Most Unique Material. While the USGBC’s creation didn’t win, it did take away a tremendous experience for its first time participating in the event with its creation, inspired by the Red Rocks Ampitheater in Morrison, Colorado.
The team included five interior designers, one mosaic designer, one mechanical engineer; and one construction professional: Kraus-Anderson’s Jennifer Brundell, LEED Green Associate and project assistant. As with all successful construction projects, teamwork and collaboration were essential to realizing the potential of the design.
Q: Working with building materials as clothing must have some pitfalls. What were some materials that failed to make the cut, and why?
Brundell: Stability and flexibility were definitely our two biggest challenges. We needed material that had the capability and stability to project out past the shoulder and the hip, while at the same time be able to contour closely to the model’s body. Another big challenge utilizing building materials is figuring out how we were going to assemble all of the pieces together (can we sew through all the materials? Do we need to use glue or tape? If so, what will be strong enough to hold everything together for long periods of time? Etc. )
Materials that failed to make the cut:
• Canvas – We wanted to utilize this as the underlayment of the entire ensemble. Our plan was to sew the canvas into a skirt and top and then build everything else off of these main pieces. We found the canvas was too stretchy and would not hold its form.
• Large/heavy pieces of tile and other resilient flooring – We wanted to make the outfit light and comfortable for the model to wear so that she would be able to easily move around without having to worry about tipping over. We also did not have the proper tools to obtain in our time crunch to be able to cut these pieces smaller.
• Carpet tiles made of recycled content – These worked great for our gladiator boots. We were able to cut a pattern into each tile so that the tile stayed secure as one piece and just laced together in the back.
• 100% Natural wall covering and Green Guard Vinyl Tile – We cut several different types of wallcovering (cork, mica, paper) and vinyl tile into small, long strips for the main part of the outfit. These were the perfect colors and textures to reflect the amphitheater and worked great to form around the model’s body. However, these materials would not hold up on their own to project off of the shoulder and hip. In order to allow the wallcovering to project out, we used reclaimed floor underlayment with wires intertwined to adhere the wallcovering to.
• Penny Rounds (round tiles) – These worked great as an accent piece for the hip. They were light enough to not pull weigh down the skirt and we already adhered to a backing, so all we needed to do was cut it into strips of rows and sew the backing to the skirt in between the tiles. They also worked well has a head piece to complete the full look.
Q: How were the LED lights in the cape activated?
Brundell: The LED lights in the train of the dress was an element of surprise. We had a switch hidden in the hip of the skirt so that the model would be able to walk down the runway with the LED lights off, then turn them on as she struck a pose at the end of the catwalk right before she turned around.
Q: When did the team start working on the design? When did you start building it?
Brundell: The formation of our team and concept stages began in early August. Throughout the month of August, our team finalized concept renderings, brought in potential materials, and secured sponsorships for materials and event tickets. Construction of the ensemble started end of August/beginning of September and was completed September 30. The event was held Oct. 3.
Q: How heavy was the gown?
Brundell: As planned, our ensemble turned out to be extremely light – maybe 2 -3 pounds per piece. We wanted top and skirt to be similar to what one would wear on a day-to-day basis (weight-wise), so that the model could freely and comfortably move around.
Q: What do you think the team overall learned from the experience?
Brundell: This project was a great experience overall. Unlike most participating teams which tend to be interior designers from the same firm, we were a team of volunteers with different backgrounds that did not know each other before the initial meeting. Our only common denominator was that we are all members of USGBC-MN.
Overall, our team learned that a team can be successful and get along extremely well when you are able to assign each individual to specific tasks that highlight their background and skills. We learned that in order to be able to create an ensemble in time with so many members to a team you need to create a design that can be broken apart into pieces to take home and work on, rather than one large piece that everyone must rely on in order to do their part. Schedules are hard to coordinate, so choose your team’s path wisely.