Strnad was a talented dressmaker in Prague in the 1930s. When Hitler’s army invaded Czechoslovakia, the Strnads attempted to emigrate to the United States. Hedy’s husband, Paul, send samples of Hedy’s dress designs to his cousin to show that she could be employable in the States. The couple eventually died in the Holocaust, and the cousin stored Hedy’s sketches in the attic.
These sketches were discovered again in 1997 and donated to the Jewish Museum Milwaukee. The museum partnered with the costume shop at Milwaukee Repertory Theater to transform Hedy’s sketches into garments. These garments and the Strnad’s story are now exhibited in “Stitching History from the Holocaust,” an exhibit currently on loan from the Jewish Museum Milwaukee. This exhibit is now on display at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts in Birmingham through March 16 and is presented by the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center.
The BHEC approached the University of Alabama College of Human Environmental Sciences to invite the apparel design students to create contemporary garments inspired by Hedy’s sketches. Student designers Jeff Austin, Mary Rives Drake, La’Shandra Garner, Trevor Hill, Jennica Mancarella, Kaitlyn Sarao, Millie Steed, Kailyn Thomas and Pang Vang showcased these designs at a fashion show on Jan. 27, which is the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Looks from the Gus Meyer collection were also featured on the runway that complemented Hedy’s designs.
Photos by Ingrid Howard.