By Margaret Frymire
Over the weekend, Annie Bloomston got her birthday wish.
The Mountain Brook High School student was named the Rising Design Star during the finale of the 2013 Birmingham Fashion Week on Saturday and celebrated her dream come true on her birthday on Sunday.
“All I wanted for my birthday was to win this contest. It was the best present,” Annie said.
Annie was one of several OTM students to be named finalists in the second year of the Rising Design Star competition, which challenges young designers to use cardboard, bubble wrap, aluminum and other recycled materials to create one-of-a-kind fashion designs.
The Rising Design Star competition showcased the unique designs of middle and high school students. From 80 applicants around the state, 40 were chosen to display their creations at the Birmingham Museum of Art Jan. 13 – Feb. 10.
For her winning design, Annie drew her inspiration not from a famous designer but from pop artist Andy Warhol. Annie Bloomston made a “pop” themed dress in every sense of the word.
Annie crafted the skirt of her Peter Pan collared dress out of Campbell’s Soup labels and made the top out of pop tabs. She constructed the belt out of old-fashioned Coke bottle caps–pop tops. Rounding out her “pop” theme, Annie paid tribute to Warhol by including his picture in the locket she made as an accessory.
It took Annie two to three weeks to construct her dress. She said the hardest part of the contest was getting her design from paper to actualization on the mannequin.
“It was so cool finally making my design come to life from paper,” Annie said. “It made this seem like more of a career option.”
Annie won a $500 gift card to The Summit and said the best part of the competition was seeing her design showcased on the Birmingham Fashion Week runway.
“Seeing it from the beginning as a drawing on paper to seeing it in real life on the runway was incredible,” she said.
Annie said the first place win has boosted her confidence.
“Winning has given me the confidence to keep going, to continue pushing toward what I want to do in fashion,” she said.
One of the youngest and most eager designers to compete was Pizitz Middle School sixth-grader Bradford Billingsley. Bradford won third place in this year’s competition.
Bradford hand-painted hummingbirds on his light blue dress, which he constructed out of roof tarp, sheetrock tape and hot glue.
“I was inspired to compete in the Rising Design Star contest after attending last year’s Birmingham Fashion Week events,” Bradford said. “I want to be a famous fashion designer, and I knew the contest would give me experience and help me grow as a designer.”
Bradford said he drew inspiration from his favorite designer, Alexander McQueen. He said he fashioned his dress in an avant-garde style in just 15 days.
Rather than taffeta, silk, muslin and thread, the young designers had to use alternative materials such as paper lunch bags and plastic tablecloths, which were the main materials in Odelia Huang’s design. Odelia, 14, is a second-year competitor from Pizitz Middle School.
Having competed previously, Odelia said she knew that most of the young designers would opt for dresses. To make a standout creation, she said she chose to look into men’s fashion instead.
“I looked for trends on this year’s runway and made a collage of men’s fashion photos,” Odelia said. “I saw the trend of dress suits and bowties, so I drew my inspiration from that.”
Odelia made her suit shirt out of colored plastic tablecloths and the vest and pants out of paper lunch bags.
Students like Odelia from Vestavia schools have a larger participation and interest in the contest thanks to the encouragement of Pizitz Middle School’s art teacher, Larry Gibson.
Gibson, who has taught art at Pizitz for nearly 29 years, encouraged several of his students to enter the contest last year. After their success, he created a video showcasing the process to the student body, generating interest among many students at Pizitz.
Gibson had entry forms available in his classroom and allowed his art students to use his classroom as workspace for their creations.
“This contest is incredible because it brings authentic, real-world skills to the students,” he said. “It is also the optimal creative project as it involves using recycled, unordinary, discarded objects in the dress design.”
Gibson has spent many years encouraging his students to explore options in art. After involvement in the contest, several of his students decided to look into Savannah College of Art and Design’s programs.
The Rising Design Star contest makes the students feel like they are real superstars, Gibson said.
For his success with his students in the Rising Design Star contest, Gibson will receive the Alabama Art Educator of the Year Award from the National Art Education Association in March.
One of Gibson’s former students, Sarah Anne Pfitzer, 14, was another second-year competitor who entered the contest. She said it took two weeks to construct her design.
The Vestavia Hills High School student said the book “Kisses from Katie” inspired her design. The book tells Katie’s story of giving up college dreams and relocating herself from Nashville, Tenn., to Uganda to share Christ with the Ugandan children through her ministry, Amazima. The ministry helps feed children and send them to school.
Sarah Anne made her dress out of paper, burlap and pottery. She said the neutral color of the burlap represents the earthen colors of Uganda and that the broken pottery represents the wastefulness of America.
The experience from her first competition allowed her to put more thought and detail and into her design for 2013, Sarah Anne said.
Olivia Kampwerth, 17, of Vestavia said she wanted to make an elegant and sophisticated design. Ironically, she chose trash bags, duct tape and bent Slinkys to accomplish her goal.
She made roses to collar the top out of feathered trash bags and used duct tape to hold her design together. It took Olivia about a month to construct her piece.
Savannah Smith, 18, created her unique dress out of aluminum screen, washers, trash bags, wire and door hinges.
“I work as a metal sculptor at Sloss, which is why I chose to work with metal in my design,” she said.
Savannah wants to continue to use her artistic talents in the future. She said she plans to pursue art education at the University of Montevallo this fall.
Several other OTM students competed in the Rising Design Star competition.
Students who competed drew inspiration from something in their backgrounds–a love of a certain fashion designer, artist, era or article of clothing.
Emily Butler, 17, of Vestavia Hills High made a Victorian era-inspired dress out of used coffee filters and gauze. Cayla Sexton, 12, Pizitz Middle, made a dress out of melted crayons. Cecily Anderson, 13, Pizitz Middle, used an umbrella, plastic and a Christmas tree stand to fashion her piece.
Laney Moers, 12, Pizitz Middle, found inspiration in a pair of her ducky pajama pants, creating a dress out of bubble wrap, trash bags and rubber ducks. Jooyoung Yang, 17, Briarwood Christian School, used her background in origami to create a dress out of newspaper. Suzanne Noble, 13, Pizitz, created her dress out of playing cards and garbage bags.
[Photos by Lee Walls, Jr.]