Four emerging Bay Area artists presented their couture designs last Thursday, August 11, 2011 for a red carpet fashion show at Supper Club in SOMA. "The Flavor Fashionista Challenge," organized by Los Angeles-based artist group Project Ethos, challenged four local designers to produce couture gowns, inspired by a Vitamin Water Zero flavor, using recycled materials -- like pieces from vintage clothing or items from their own closets -- in their designs. Guests chose the winning design via live text voting during the fashion show.
Twenty-seven year old Larissa Verdussen won the challenge and $3,000 worth of prizes. Verdussen moved to the Bay Area from Brazil 10 years ago as a professional dancer. She shifted her focus to clothing design in 2006 and is now the owner Rag Doll Designs, located in San Francisco's Noe Valley.
"The challenge was perfect for me because I love to integrate recycled material in my garments," says Verdussen. "It drives me on a creative level to give purpose to what a lot of people claim as 'waste.'"
Larissa Verdussen's winning design.
Verdussen's Rag Doll Designs shop focuses on sustainable clothing. Her website boasts: "All garments are made from factory remnants, scraps, vintage, dead stock fabric, and overstocked textile goods." For the Project Ethos runway challenge, Verdussen says she embroidered vintage pearls and crystals around the shoulder of the dress. "I [also] incorporated a men's blazer with silk screened pictures of scenes of historical importance," says Verdussen. She used the bottom part of the blazer around the hip area of her gown to capture the pockets for utility purposes and to create a bustle-like effect, accentuating the model's figure.
"I was told to use Vitamin Water "Drive" as inspiration for the competition," says Verdussen. "The color of the drink is orange and so was the blouse and accents on the skirt. The drink is also very sweet and energetic so I wanted to reflect that in the garment as well."
Twenty-nine year old Wen Guo was another one of the four designers featured in the Challenge. Guo moved to the Bay Area six years ago from Hong Kong to study architectural design. But she says her passion for clothing soon led her to start her own clothing company, Boditecture. For the fashion show, Guo produced a couture gown that transformed into six unique outfits on the runway. Check out a slideshow of Wen Guo's convertible couture gown:
"I was using 30 pieces of old t-shirts from Goodwill," Guo says. "Also a dress from my own closet. Other than using recycled materials, the going green concept is also presented as a 'less consumption' lifestyle -- this convertible dress can be worn in six different ways, so people can consume less but enjoy more."
Guo says she always does convertible clothing lines because they are eco-friendly. She says her "convertible fashion construction" is related to and inspired by her love of architecture. She uses 'environmental material' in her designs -- materials people use in their everyday living environments -- like shower curtains.
"The dress included a shower curtain from Ace Hardware because I'm an architect," says Guo. "In my runway shows I use hardware: door handles, hangers,furniture... I want to extend the concept of a sustainable lifestyle, so I try to include a little of building materials and environment materials, so we can bring the consciousness outside of fashion and extend it to habitation as well."
For the color and form of the dress, Guo says she used "the sweet yellow and cool green colors" inspired by the Vitamin Water "Rhythm" flavor.
"We loved the theme "Rhythm" during the whole design process, there was so much inspiration coming out from it," Guo says. "And the transformation of the dress -- it transforms into a new style every several steps the model walks -- resonates the healthy rhythmic daily life, that every day we learn and evolve into something new and fresh."
The other local designers included Lauren Crafford, owner of LHC Couture, and Stephanie Verrieres and Kimie Sako of Verrieres & Sako. Co-sponsored by Vitamin Water and 7x7 Magazine, the Project Ethos red carpet fashion show donated one dollar of each ticket sale to NEST, a non-profit created to empower female artists worldwide by providing mentorship programs and interest-free loans.
All images courtesy Viet mac and Tabitha Donaghue.