Photograph by Gary Barragan
From hand-painted dried fruits to coffee filters and candle wax, the unconventional materials used to construct the pieces featured in KMAC Couture: Art Walks the Runway are delightfully unique and always completely surprising.
KMAC Couture is an annual fashion show hosted by KMAC Museum that connects the local community with regional artists and their work, as well as the technical and creative process behind it.
“We wanted to have a fundraiser for the museum that gave people a creative experience while giving artists and the public a dynamic moment to connect and be inspired,” explains the museum’s executive director, Aldy Milliken, when talking about the conception of the event.
The inspiration for KMAC Couture came from the collaborations he established with a group of fashion designers when he lived and owned a gallery in Stockholm, Sweden.
“My experiences in Stockholm made me comfortable with fashion design and how one can create an artistic moment with live models in an art space,” says Milliken.
After being impressed by the creative work coming out of the duPont Manual textile department, Milliken asked the students to submit their work to the museum. With the student fashion designs and help of the museum’s board members, KMAC Couture was born in 2013.
“The first year, we hosted the show in the museum,” he says. “I wanted to do everything in the museum. So, we put artworks on the façade, opened the galleries and invited people to cram into the space for an incredible fashion show. It was an exciting, creative time at KMAC because everything was so new.”
Now, the event is hosted in a large, white tent located directly in front of KMAC Museum on West Main Street.
“KMAC Couture celebrates wearable art, but it also benefits KMAC Museum’s free exhibitions and educational programming,” explains the museum’s visitor coordinator, Kris Pettit. “These programs annually serve around 100,000 individuals.”
However, the event doesn’t just serve the local museum. It also gives artists a unique platform and the opportunity to display their work at KMAC Museum for a three-week period after the fashion show. Those who attend the event have an opportunity to meet the artists and see their handmade garments at the after party, which is held on the first floor of the museum.
“Having your work walk for a large audience who appreciates it is so gratifying,” says Liz Richter, a local artist who has been involved with the event since 2014.
Guests of KMAC Couture are asked to wear shades of white so couture pieces remain the focal point of the fashion show, which will be held April 20.
This year, the runway show will feature 52 pieces of wearable art created by 53 regional artists. These artists include milliners, costumers and fashion designers. Local high school students will also take part in KMAC Couture through a mentoring program that connects them to professional local artists. These established artists provide guidance throughout the entire KMAC Couture process.
This year’s theme explores personal stories and how individuals convey them with what they choose to wear. The inspiration behind the show’s theme was pulled from the visionary work created by the late Bill Cunningham, a photographer for The New York Times. Cunningham’s muses ranged from Park Avenue socialites to punk, club kids. Regardless of where he found inspiration or how unexpected it may have been, these New Yorkers always inspired him.
“We are entrepreneurial in our attitude,” states Milliken. “KMAC Couture and the museum will continue to evolve, so people should expect the unexpected.” VT
For more information, or to purchase tickets, click here.
Side Note: This piece that was originally published in The Voice-Tribune.