Explore Whyte Avenue as part of the SkirtsAfire festival, strolling to four different shops to see this year’s Skirt Design Challenge.

SkirtsAfire empowers, develops, supports and showcases women during its annual March festival. And they have once-again partnered with women-owned businesses in Old Strathcona to display the Skirt Design Challenge. With today being International Women’s Day (March 8), we wanted to highlight this year’s skirt designs and where you can find them.

Four local artists have created skirts found at four different Old Strathcona retailers. The Skirt Design Challenge asked the artists to create a piece with the theme “Adaptation” using up-cycled waste materials provided by the stores and supplemented by other materials the designers are re-purposing.

Take a look at the designs below, read what inspired the artists, and find out where you can see the skirts during the festival.

Majestic Mollusk

Designed by: Melissa Squire
Find it at: Mars & Venus

Melissa Squire is a self-taught fashion designer whose socially conscious attitude, eco-friendly initiatives and community-oriented business practices are infectious. Her designs have been showcased on runways locally and internationally. They feature unique pieces from rockabilly dresses and baby clothes to steampunk vests adorned with recycled tires and studs. She also does wearable art, couture and custom work, including unique wedding attire. 

Artist Statement:
Adaptation is a change or the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment. The octopus has a formidable ability to learn, transform and adapt to new situations, to find food and avoid predation. They can squeeze through the smallest spaces, change colour and alter their texture. They have even been known to wear disguises! As our earth becomes overrun with waste and pollution, humans must adapt our behaviours to suit our ever-changing environment and to reduce our carbon footprint.  We must live more sustainably and consider the environmental impact of our decisions and purchases. Reduce food waste and energy consumption. Consume more vegetables and food produced closer to home. Adapting to sustainable lifestyle choices help to mitigate effects of climate change.  

Materials Used:

  • Tractor tire tube
  • Upcycled draperies
  • Upcycled garments
  • Paint
  • Fabric scraps for print making
  • Stuffing – non recyclable plastics, upcycled pillow batting
  • Studs 

And, I Fashion Myself

Designed by: Tanya Edison
Find it at: Village Goods

Tanya Edison is a multi-media artist from Nova Scotia who has worked in construction as a residential painter for over 25 years. She wants to see more women in construction trades and will talk about it to anyone who will listen. She believes everyone is a unique piece of art within their personal journey.

Artist Statement:
Personally, art and design is always based on what resources are around me that can readily be used without incurring financial hardship. Adaptation is the foundation on which I put those materials together to speak for me. I look at the potential of material to fit into an elaboration of what I want to be capable of. Once I see that thing I want to say, I have to reflect on my own capacity to give purpose to the things I bring into my life. It is with a great amount of respect that I reach into a bag of recyclable materials, transported from another country, that I feel a responsibility to treat even packing peanuts with the reverence of marble. It is what I have and my design will speak to a combination of respect and adaptation. This skirt design was an organic process that evolved as the potential of each material was tested for durability, beauty and its ability to form to the structure.

Materials Used:

  • Fair Trade coffee packaging from Columbia
  • Packaging newspapers from various countries
  • Store promotional material provided by Village Goods
  • Postcard promotional material for ‘Just One World Global Marketplace’
  • Table cloth from India provided by Village Goods
  • Christmas giving guide Mennonite Central Committee
  • Recycled PVC tubing
  • Materials from Africa provided by Village Goods
  • Variety handmade bells from South America and Africa
  • Packing tissue paper provided by Rainbow Draperies
  • Reused canvas material

Tailored Practice

Designed by: Rebecca Cypher
Find it at: 3 Girls Swim & Wear

Rebecca is an emerging, queer, POC theatre artist living and working in Amiskwacîwâskahikan, also known as Edmonton, Alberta. Currently her work is focused on set, costume, lighting, and puppet design. She likes to approach design with a hands-on approach and enjoys exploring and making discoveries with other artists. She believes in the importance of understanding the materials she designs with, and has experience as a scenic painter, junior stitcher, and puppet builder. 

Artist Statement:
I wanted to take participating in this design challenge as an opportunity to experiment and expand my practice. In my work as a theatre designer, materials are often purpose-bought, used for a single production, and then left to collect dust in storage or thrown out. This type of practice needs to change to adjust to our changing world in the current climate crisis. In making this piece, I was able to explore the creation of textiles from reused materials, test their durability and usability, and consider future applications. This theme is reflected in the visual design of the skirt. I wanted to have some elements of the skirt utilize the materials in ways similar to textiles. This was a chance to see if I could create durable, usable materials from waste using techniques already available to me. I also wanted to investigate expanding my practice to creating art pieces that are whole in of themselves. My work is usually collaborative, and revolves around meeting the needs of scripts and shared creative visions. This skirt was a unique opportunity to create a piece that changes from wearable art to installation, with more creative control than my typical work.

Materials Used:

  • Tissue paper
  • Craft paper
  • Wrapping paper
  • Plastic bags
  • Cellophane
  • Miscellaneous plastic and paper
  • Wire
  • Packing tape
  • Zip ties
  • Sewing supplies
  • Findings

Flash on Persistence

Designed by Megan Beland
Find it at: gravitypope Tailored Goods

“By using a flash on your camera the appearance will change. I wanted to create a skirt that can change its shape and appearance depending on how the garment is worn.”

Megan Beland is a conceptual and visual fine artist who specializes in acrylic painting and intermedia art practices. Born and raised in the Canadian Rockies, she is now based in Edmonton where she received her Fine Arts diploma at MacEwan University in 2018 and her BFA at the University of Alberta in 2020. She is fascinated by how the passage of time impacts people and spaces, as well as how things exist and transform within the context of their environments.

Artist Statement:
I have titled this piece of art “ Flash On Persistence”, where a persistence for one to adapt and change is required. In response to the theme of adaptation, my shirt can be viewed in different ways depending on use of camera light and wear. Made from upcycled materials such as offcuts of window vinyl and used fabrics from second hand clothing stores, I started by deconstructing versions of plaid patterned clothing. This plaid created a base that I then built upon. I was inspired by the weaving seen in the plaid patterns and manipulated the vinyl material to create a fabri- like structure. Through this process I was inspired by how the light was reacting to the vinyl and took it a step further and found a bioluminescent fabric and vinyl that reacts to the use of a camera flash. By using a flash on your camera the appearance will change. I wanted to create a skirt that can change its shape and appearance depending on how the garment is worn. I chose two different silhouettes for the skirt, one with the hood up versus with it down where it becomes a part of the skirt.

Materials Used:

  • Window tint
  • Reflective material
  • Reused plaid skirts
  • Bioluminescent fabric

Photos by April MacDonald Killins & BB Collective Photography

Check out our event page for more details on the festival and where you can enjoy live performances through March 12.

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