Walk into a high school 3D design class and you’ll see fashion designs light years ahead of the usual mass-market apparel. Here, budding designers build and shape like sculptors, creating “wearable forms in space,” says Anne Davey, who teaches this AP class at Hutchison School.
Her students exaggerate the human form, making wearable art that looks wild and exotic but is actually carefully structured. Materials like paper plates, metal, Styrofoam balls, and polyvinyl acetate get incorporated into headpieces and dresses. “Even paper can be very exciting,” notes Davey. To inspire her students, she shows examples of Alexander McQueen’s designs. Then, the brainstorming, cutting, and sizing begin.
Going for gold
Four Hutchison students entered their fashion designs in the 2015 Mid-South Scholastic Art Awards this year, hoping to win a coveted Gold or Silver Key. The fashion category has grown over the years, with students from schools like Bolton High, Lausanne, and St. Mary’s receiving recognition.
The annual juried competition is open to students in grades 7 to 12 across the Mid-South and includes painting, drawing, photography, ceramics, mixed media, fashion, and writing. Winners receive cash prizes and scholarship opportunities. The winners will be exhibited at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art from January 31-March 1. Some will advance to New York City for national judging.
Creating the unforgettable
Hutchison has a history of success in fashion design; nine students received awards last year and this year, senior Elizabeth Wharton hopes to join them by creating an unforgettable dress. Sketchbook in hand, she eyes a bare mannequin. With spray-painted plastic greenery and wire mesh, she plans to create a backless dress with a bustle. In the next hour, she sketches, cuts, and stitches. She sizes soft fabric to fit under the mesh. But how will she attach the greenery?
“It’s trial-and-error work and creative problem-solving,” says Davey.
After a semester in the class, Wharton knows her original vision may change. “Everything is fixable, and you can always make compromises.” It’s her first time to experiments in 3D. While creating a broach, she struggled to affix needle-like metal pieces for an assignment with the theme of protective ornamentation. The broach is worn over the heart, symbolically guarding the wearer from the perils of romance. It’s perfect for teens, I tell her.
Doing something bigger
At St. Mary’s Episcopal School, nine students won fashion design awards in last year’s competition. Sophomore Jasmine Huang won a Gold Key Fashion Award with a gold paper dress entry. “My design got a lot of feedback, and that was exciting,” she said. “The dress was displayed on a billboard, and lots of people saw it at the Brooks exhibition.” Classes like these can foster interest in design and may help develop talent who can contribute to the city’s emerging fashion scene, showcased during Memphis Fashion Week, March 24-28.
Huang might have continued her focus on painting and drawing until teacher Elizabeth Garat asked, “Do you want to do something bigger?” The 16-year-old took the challenge. “It was hard to come up with a plan, but there was a cool evolution in the work. The learning process is exciting.” With butcher paper, metallic paint, duct tape, and Velcro, she made a one-of-a-kind dress.
Do these artists ever feel out-of-step with peers who seldom seem to put down their cell phones? “It makes it harder when you’re used to things being faster,” admits Wharton. “Sometimes the process is frustrating.”
Huang agrees. “It’s a mindset that anyone who does art deals with every single day. But I enjoy the evolution of the design process.”
Mid-South Scholastic Arts Awards By the Numbers
- 1,800: Number entries
- 120: Participating schools (from across the Mid-South)
- 217: Number of gold and silver keys awarded
- $10,000: Amount of scholarship monies available
- January 12: Date winners will be announced at brooksmusem.org/midsouth-art-awards
Want to become sew-phisticated? Take a class
Sew Memphis Machine Sewing 101 for Kids (8+) & Adults
- Workshop introduces the basics of how to use a sewing machine.
- January 17 or January 31, 1-4 p.m.
- $35/includes supplies • sewmemphis.com
Memphis College of Art - Continuing EducationFashion Design I
- For novice designers wanting to reach the next level. Learn the basics of fashion sketching, use of different fabrics, and the sewing machine.
- January 20-February 24, 6-8:30 p.m.
- $225 • Register by January 13 • mca.edu
Celebrate Local Designers at Memphis Fashion Week
WHO: Memphis designers, photographers, fashionistas, boutiques, and modelsWHAT: Fashion in Film movie series, runway shows, VIP party.WHEN: March 24- 28WHERE: Go to memphisfashionweek.org or visit them on Facebook for details.
Model call Friday, February 13, at 4 p.m. at Ballet Memphis. For ages 14+. Audition requirements: Height for women: 5’7”+ (without heels), men: 5’10”. Sizes women: 0-4, Men waist 31”-34”. Teens under age 18 must have guardian present.