Farm to fashion: Project Handmade Fashion Show returns on Sept. 11

WHAT TO WEAR: "Autumn Forest Ensemble," one of the garments in this year’s show, a collaboration involving local artists Lisa Klakulak, Cara May and Jessica Brommer. Photo by Steve Mann

This is not your typical catwalk event: “The fashion show is about showcasing the use of local materials, local models and local fashion and textile artists,” says Melanie Wilder, supervisor of the fiber arts program at Warren Wilson College. She’s talking about the Project Handmade Fashion Show, which returns to the Diana Wortham Theatre for the second year on Thursday, Sept. 11. This year’s motif is “Texture and Movement,” featuring artists and designers within a 100-mile radius of Asheville. Each will exhibit garments with an individual interpretation of the theme. The fashion show is juried, with a focus on locally produced and repurposed materials.

Wilder, a fiber artist in her own right, says she’s excited about Project Handmade because it focuses on building relationships between local fiber farms and artists as well as using homemade or homegrown dye plants in garments. Wilder speaks about the larger vision of a “fibershed,” a model for creating community-organized textile cultures, started by Rebecca Burgess in 2011. Currently there is Fibershed Southeast, which supports local fibers, dyes and labor.

Wilder envisions the Asheville area as an ideal fibershed. With its abundance of local farms and artisan talent, the region is ripe for the emergence of a strong fiber economy. Local Cloth, a nonprofit and sponsor of the fashion show (along with Oriole Mill and Echoview Fiber Mill), has conducted much research on how to support and sustain the textile arts economy in Western North Carolina: To date, there are 405 fiber art professionals, 462 fiber animal farms, 51 yarn shops and 80 galleries with fiber art within 100 miles of Asheville, not to mention the 2,500 fiber art hobbyists, 21 cotton farms and 12 textile mills. The Project Handmade Fashion Show is an opportunity to witness the potential of the local fiber economy firsthand, as well as encourage further collaboration among all parts of the system, from farm to clothing.

Following the show, the audience is invited to meet the designers during a public Q&A session onstage, shop the designer showcase or network during a Champagne reception.

WHAT: The Project Handmade Fashion Show
WHERE: Diana Wortham Theatre,
WHEN: Thursday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. $15 general/$25 VIP


About Emily Nichols
Emily Nichols is a writer and photographer for the Mountain Xpress. She enjoys writing about wellness and spirituality in WNC.

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