Wear apparent: Project Handmade showcases slow fashion

Sustainable style: This runway show focuses on locally sourced textiles and designs.

what: Project Handmade 2012
where: Asheville Art Museum
when: Thursday, Oct. 25 (doors at 6:30 p.m., fashion show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for reserved seating, $15 general admission and $7 for Asheville Art Museum or Local Cloth members and students. http://projecthandmade.org)

If you’ve been following the local fashion scene, you’ve probably seen the jump in runway shows in the last couple of years. But Project Handmade 2012 (produced by Local Cloth: Farm/Fiber/Fashion Network in partnership with the Asheville Art Museum) provides a different spin on the models-plus-catwalk template.

First, hopefuls had to meet the approval of a jury. Out of that process, 27 local artists were selected to create some 36 looks — though not everyone involved is an apparel designer. “One of the things that I love the most about this is that it’s judging people who don’t usually do garments,” says organizer Barbara Zaretsky of BZDesign and learning center Cloth Fiber Workshop.

Zaretsky’s work space is in the Cotton Mill Studios; her neighbor is Sutherland Handweaving Studio — makers of woven goods like scarves and table runners. Weaver Barb Butler created yardage for designer Angela Kim, who fashioned a suit. “It’s so exciting to see people get involved in a different level from what they’re used to,” says Zaretsky.

Collaboration is one of the goals of Project Handmade. Zaretsky is partnering with Libby O’Bryan from Western Carolina Sewing Company. “In one of our garments, we’re using cotton that was milled at The Oriole Mill in Hendersonville,” she says.

Local sourcing is a second goal of the showcase. Or, “to inspire textile artists to engage resources available in the region and encourage innovation to showcase and distinguish the region’s creative fiber and textile-art community,” as the call to artists put it. Local textile sources besides the Oriole Mill (which wove its first fabric in 1907) include Echoview Fiber Mill in Weaverville and New World Textiles in Black Mountain.

Designer Moe Donnelly of Sew Moe is working with upcycled fabric — a go-to among local environmentally minded artists. And, for a long time, recycling has been the best option for sustainable material. Historically, the textile industry was a major part of the North Carolina economy (the building where Zaretsky works gets its name from its original function) and with new, sustainable mills opening, it’s possible that textile businesses could again become important players.

Slow fashion is a thing. “We’re not necessarily calling it that here, but that’s sort of what it is,” says Zaretsky. “It’s taking examples from the farmers here, and the stores that are carrying local produce and the restaurants that are carrying it in their dishes.” She’s hoping for locally grown sustainable cotton and natural dye plants in the near future.

But first there’s Project Handmade — part educational program, part discussion and mostly a runway show of newly envisioned fashion.

Alli Marshall can be reached at amarshall@mountainx.com.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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