Adrienne Antonson makes sculptures out of hair and dresses out of rubber bands. And generally turns fashion on its head.
by Ursula Gullow . photos by Matt Rose
Repurposing the scraps of everyday life into meticulous items of elegance comes naturally to Adrienne Antonson. The 29-year-old once stitched together a mass of rubber bands to create a dress bodice, and fashioned a knotted necklace from used teabags. She has even incorporated the hides of shoes into her clothes, and used human hair as sculptural lingerie. “I’m a damn good thrifter,” says the Florida native, who moved to Asheville via Seattle last fall. “The closer something is to being waste, the more attracted I am to it.”
Antonson insists she uses only reclaimed materials in her clothing line, State, and she collects fabrics from thrift stores nationwide. Describing her tailoring process as “making origami,” Antonson says: “I like to cut everything apart and save it or reuse it in an unexpected way.” So far, she’s doing a fairly convincing job of recycling: The hem of a skirt becomes a breezy scoop of a collar; a denim dress is reimagined as a smock with suspenders. Holding up a basket of cuffs she’s been collecting over the years, she laughs, “I’ll probably sew them all together one day, I don’t know.”
Last September Antonson moved to West Asheville from Vashon Island, a small rural island dotted with alpaca farms and gardens, just off the Seattle coast. Just after she and her husband Kevin Murphy got engaged, they moved to a Vashon Island farm where Antonson helped manage a herd of 50 alpacas. (Murphy, a freelance writer, is the publisher of Dark Sky, a literary magazine, along with Dark Sky Books.)
How would you like to spend your day shoveling manure, administering medicine or helping a small, llama-like creature give birth? It suited Antonson just fine. She began incorporating their soft animal fleece into felted items like bonnets and home accessories, and she was struck one day with the urge to create bugs using human hair. “I’ve always wanted to be an entomologist, but I would never commit to being that academic,” she says. “This is the closest I could ever get.”
Now, using primarily human hair gathered from family and friends, Antonson says making bugs and other objects (scissors, glue bottles) is “thrilling—it’s like a dance,” she says. After completing her first series of bugs for a Seattle shop, Antonson posted the images online and they became a viral sensation, gathering praise from the likes of like National Geographic, Flavorwire, Huffington Post, The Sun (a British publication) and a Turkish newspaper, Hurriet. Last year, Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum in Florida purchased six bugs, later acquiring more for a traveling show.
In school at The College of Charleston, Antonson focused on painting and studio art. She has no fashion background, except a summer class at The Savannah College of Art and Design during high school. “I love fashion, but I don’t like thinking about it all the time,” she admits. Soon after college, Antonson’s arty, utilitarian clothes created a bit of a stir in Charleston, and she started organizing alternative fashion shows and group art exhibits.
Last year, her line State caught the attention of a Seattle curator, and she has an ongoing business relationship with the Seattle boutique NuBe Green. She is currently preparing for two Seattle trunk shows, in April and October. To top it off, in March, Antonson returns to Charleston to present clothes for the Emerging Designers Showcase at Charleston Fashion Week. Much as she’d like to relax and explore Asheville, she says she’ll spend the next few weeks holed up in her West Asheville apartment, stitching together 100 pieces of clothing as fast as she can. In the bigger picture, she’s picked a good city to join a growing crowd of arty, earth-friendly fashionistas. And in the meantime, sounds like she’s got her work cut out for her.
See more at www.adrienneantonson.com.
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