Our Laguna: From found art to high fashion

September 04, 2013|By Barbara Diamond
  • Model Erika Baldwin walks the runway in an ensemble designed by W. Bradley Elsberry
Model Erika Baldwin walks the runway in an ensemble designed… (Patrick Rogers…)

Fashions created from trash sets apart the designers in the Festival of Arts Runway Fashion Show from all other couturiers.

The show features designs by festival exhibitors made of recycled, reclaimed or re-used materials. Four cash prizes of $1,000 are awarded for the Most Creative Concept, Most Exciting Ensemble, Most innovative use of materials and Most Glamorous Red Carpet Worthy designs. The winner of the People's Favorite gets applause.

Despite the muggy weather on Saturday, almost 3,000 folks gathered around the outdoor stage to admire the ingenious artists and to vote for their favorite.

"I wouldn't miss it," said Laguna artist Karen Feur-Schwager.

W. Bradley Elsberry was the people's choice for the fourth year. His entry was also picked by the judges as the Most Red Carpet Worthy.

Elsberry's 2011 entry, Phoenix Rising, made from eucalyptus bark, is considered by many to be the gold standard for the show.


This year, paint was his medium. He picked up discarded cans of water-based latex paints, mixed them with some acrylic and dripped, poured and brushed layers of paint onto a plastic sheet. Each layer was allowed to dry before the next one was applied till Elsberry achieved the look he wanted and a thickness that could be manipulated. The result was white lace and a shimmering blue "waterfall" fabric that was cut, glued and taped into a stunning evening coat and strapless dress, modeled by the equally stunning Erika Baldwin.

"When I wanted extra bling or wet sparkle, I used some water-based glossy varnish to polish it off," Elsberry said.

The Most Exciting Ensemble prize went to painter Elizabeth McGhee, who created and modeled "The Moving Story of Marie Antoinette," an elaborate French court dress created from packing paper and bubblewrap. The paper skirt belled over a hula hoop, topped by a bodice of salvaged ribbon, all held together with staples, hot glue and thread.

McGhee's elaborate wig was made of twine and old yarn.

Alicia Chavex modeled jeweler Adam Neeley's winning entry as the Most Creative Concept. Many remembered her in last year's homage to Frida Kahlo. This year, "Flora," from Botticellis' "La Primavera," was Neeley's inspiration.

Painted, recycled window and door screens were the foundation for the recycled-tissue bodice. The skirt and train were fashioned from foliage. Flowers were crafted from the Pageant of the Masters 80th Anniversary Collectors Edition.

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