Young North Fork artists recycle for the runway

08/09/2011 6:48 AM |

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Maggie Bruer, 9, of Mattituck in front followed by Julianna Voegel, 8, of Cutchogue on left.

Tissue paper, old beads, feathers, plastic bags and old T-shirts were the canvases used by a unique group of young local artists in the North Fork’s first-ever “Green Project Runway,” held on the Cutchogue Village Green Saturday afternoon.

Ten girls, many of them fourth-grade classmates at Cutchogue East Elementary School, spent Tuesdays this summer with Gayle Wagner at the Old Town Art and Crafts Guild putting together dazzling outfits made of recycled materials. The project was similar in design to the television show “Project Runway,” in which aspiring fashion designers are given the raw materials and told to make outfits — except that the materials the young girls were given could easily have been discarded as trash instead of recycled.

“They made everything. They were given what they were given and they had to make something out of it,” said Ms. Wagner, who was assisted by high school students Alecia Knopp and Emily Gatz, who helped the youngsters flesh out their designs. Alecia brought in a book about cutting and re-stitching T-shirts that helped bring the project to life, with many of the girls making their tops from extra-large men’s T-shirts that were cut and then tied or re-sewed for a more feminine look. The girls then used their imaginations to make their outfits unique.

For would-be fashion designer Sarah Santacroce, feathers made her outfit take flight. “I wanted it to be a mix of the ’80s and the ’60s, “ she said. “Not really hippie, but more like disco.”

Charlotte Keil made frills out of old twirly shoelaces for the bottom of her trash-bag skirt and used her family’s heirloom buttons to accent her top. “I love using old-fashioned buttons,” she said.

Claire Gatz tore out the sides of a pink men’s T-shirt and tied the edges of the shirt together for a look that might have been suggestive if the girls weren’t wearing bathing suits under their outfits. She also made a purse out of plastic plates, lace and blue painter’s tape. Sarah dubbed Claire’s outfit “Pretty in Pink.”

“It’s really pink,” said Claire, giggling.

Maggie Bruer paid tribute to an uncle who lives in Alaska with a purple and white top that had bear claw imprints cut out of the top layer of the shirt. She also made a belt out of pop-top soda can lids.
“The belt was a crazy idea,” she admitted. “I’ve made clothes before. Me and my cousin make up crazy ideas.”

Julia Gannon designed a black dress whose skirt was trimmed with black feathers that Sarah had donated for the project, and Julianna Voegel designed a blue dress with a bird cut-out emblazoned on the skirt.

Jillian Orr was going for a ’60s look, starting with a bright green skirt that had a peace sign emblazoned on it. The shoulders on her hot-pink top were tied together and decked out with safety pins, and a flower and lace pink headband topped off the outfit.

For most of the girls, it was their first time designing clothes, but Sarah said it wasn’t new to her.
“I’ve designed quite a bit of clothes, but this is my first time showing it off on the catwalk,” she said.

Old Town Art and Crafts Guild president Bob Kuhne joined Ms. Wagner and the girls on the Village Green last Tuesday for the dress rehearsal.

“Everything’s handmade. You can create stuff that doesn’t cost a lot of money. That’s an artsy thing. Your imagination goes to the point of reusing things,” he said. “Everything that we do at the guild is free for anybody. We feel it’s important to give back to the community. We want the younger generation to be interested in art.”

byoung@timesreview.com

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