Rich colours, subtle organic textures overlaid with bold screenprints, intriguing yet subtle in their interpretation. If this sounds like an art review, it should. Artist Wendy Van Riesen of Dahlia Drive produces her one-of-a-kind pieces from discarded slips and shirts, in her words, ‘Resurrecting the fashion wasteland’, a term which applies not only to the recycling of garments, but to an anti-mass-production theory of design that makes each piece a unique statement.
“I think people like the idea of an item of clothing having a story behind it.” says Wendy. “Not only the story of where it originally came from (ie the thrift store in Salmon Arm) but the history in stains or tears left by the previous owner and then the story of my process, dyeing it and burying it in the garden to rust it, and then the images I choose. I love that the pieces are sculptural and are only fully realized on their new owner.”
Naturally, her product line’s greatest strength is also it’s marketing weakness.
“My biggest marketing challenge is how to sell one of kind garments within a consumer market that is structured around mass sales of identical products in different sizes. My sizes and styles are not regulated and neither are the designs so they need to be experienced first hand. I also want to keep my line from becoming couture or so expensive it is prohibitive to the average buyer.”
The Green Marketing Brief: Thinking as a pure eco-capitalist, I could envision that Wendy might one day apprentice more artists in her techniques, who, in an Andy Warhol-esque fashion, could create their own interpretations and produce art on a larger scale. Or perhaps even franchise smaller Dahlia Drive studios across North America, farming the fertile thrift stores of the Midwest and bringing art fashion to the Wal-Mart-crazed masses.
In any event, I will wear my shirt (western-style, rusted and dyed, with a graphic of nails), with sustainable pride.
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