Trash meets fashion at Festival of Arts runway show – OCRegister

One artist used old VHS tapes to make a long strapless gown that drew appreciative exclamations from the audience. Another used plastic bags and thread to make two dresses that looked like they’d been topped with red sea coral. There was tough competition at the annual Festival Runway Fashion Show at the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach on Saturday.

The festival’s exhibitors, including painters and jewelry makers, compete to create the best outfits made of recycled or reclaimed materials in this annual “Project Runway”-like event. Supermodel Kim Alexis, who appeared on magazine covers from Cosmopolitan to Vogue in the 1980s, was a judge alongside Pageant of the Masters Director Diane Challis Davy and Laguna Beach Arts Commissioner and textile designer Suzi Chauvel.

Actress Joely Fisher, herself a former judge of the fashion show, hosted the event, introducing each design with personal statements and details from the artists.

“I love fashion. It’s also a teachable moment,” Fisher said during a break while judges tabulated the results. “I love the sentiment of upcycling anything that you find and creating art out of that.” With such amazing entries this year, she added, “I don’t know how they’re going to pick a winner.”

Painter Hedy Buzan modeled her own creation, crafted from trash she had collected on 15 visits to the beach. She turned a pink-and-white towel she found washed up on shore into a dress. Her hat was topped with a variety of trash, such as a can of Red Bull, a child’s sand shovel, a flip-flop and a spray can of sunscreen.

During her strut down the runway, Buzan held up a plastic serving tray, also found on the beach, with the number 5 on it. The message was to encourage people to pick up five pieces of trash every time they go to the beach.

“I pick up trash all day long every place,” Buzan said during the break. “Many people pick up the beach in monthly cleanups. But if everyone did it every day, it would always be beautiful.”

Eleven artists displayed their creations on the runway set up in the middle of the Festival of Arts grounds. There were five awards: most glamorous “red carpet”-worthy creation, most creative concept, most exciting ensemble, most innovative use of materials and a people’s choice award chosen by votes from the audience.

Judges deemed jewelry maker Adam Neeley’s creation, “Maven of the Movies,” the most glamorous. The strapless gown with a train was covered with tape from VHS cassettes – more than 8,000 feet of vintage film noir footage – that fluttered and made the dress shimmer. His model wore a headpiece of black and gold feathers made from a Native American costume and dry cleaning hangers. Neeley also won the people’s choice award, no surprise given the audience’s reaction when his model glided across the stage.

The most creative concept award went to painter Mariana Nelson for her pair of dresses, one for a woman and one for a little girl. Nelson riffed off the idea of a student at Hogwarts, the wizard school of the Harry Potter series, and her teacher, Professor Coral. Nelson tightly twisted dry cleaning bags, newspaper bags, biohazard bags and thread to make sea creatures and coral to deck out the dresses. The message was that single-use plastic bags are such a problem that they’re finding their way into the magical world.

Another pair of gowns won the most exciting ensemble award. Brad Elsberry, a painter, took his inspiration from the elaborate Roman-style swimming pool at Hearst Castle. Thousands of blue and gold candy and gum wrappers went into the bikini-and-short-skirt set worn by one model and the long strapless dress worn by another.

John Tolle, a jewelry maker, received the most innovative award for his “Nespresso Coffee Couture” dress. He sewed loads of the colored disposable capsules for coffee drinks onto a donated dress and topped it with a hat ringed with dangling Nespresso spoons.

The winner of each award, except the people’s choice, received $1,000.

The judges gave an impromptu award to Buzan at the end for her message of keeping beaches clean.

“We love the sentiment,” said Fisher. “We love the inspiration. And we love your outfit!”

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