November 7, 2010

Dahlia Drive

 From the North Shore OUTLOOK, Vancouver, B.C., May 2010 -

One North Vancouver designer says she’s noticing a growing environmental interest among consumers. Wendy Van Riesen's line, Dahlia Drive, recycles previously worn slips and men’s shirts. She paints designs onto paper and then presses them onto the clothing. The process not only uses a small amount of water — she can complete 10 slips in one washer load — but the printing paper can be reused.

“I do see part of my job as educating,” she says.

Van Riesen recently completed a line of T-shirts for the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Leonardo da Vinci exhibit, one of which was bought by the president of Finland.

"It’s always the design that first attracts the customer, but the environmentally friendly aspect is a winning bonus," Van Riesen says. Although she was originally drawn to used slips because of the stories and character which accompanies the clothing, "working with what you’re given also keeps the environment in mind." Van Riesen says.

"Dahlia Drive’s slogan is ‘Resurrecting the fashion wasteland’." she notes.

Dahlia Drive gathers discarded women's slips, fabrics, men's shirts and reworks them with colour, images and textures to create one of a kind fashion for the unique individual. Each found piece is considered on its own merit: type of fabric,pre-existing stains or tears, how it responds to dye.  Depending on thesequalities, the piece may be buried in the garden with rusty things to over-stain previous stains or patched with pieces of fabric to strengthen a tear.  Then each piece is dyed and screen printed with an image of bones, plants, animals, grid textures and/or lace patterns to add another layer of history to the garment. New to its repertoire, some slips are hand painted first onto paper and then transferred onto the garment through heat.

Most fashion pieces are created from pre-patterned 2 dimensional yardages cut and sewn to the finished sculptured form.  I start with the sculpture. The garment becomes a continuous landscape for its own story, the wearer'sstory and mine. The canvas of a recycled slip, for example, has its own
history; broken threads, stains from luncheon dates, torn lace from years of leg crossing.  They provide an intimate landscape of the female form. These landscapes inspire me to layer, infuse and embellish a new story onto their map; not to eradicate the previous history, but to stand on its shoulders as
part of its evolution. Ultimately, someone wears it and fills it physically, adding another layer to the story.

Example of printing on fabric with natural rusting process by Dahlia Drive.

Sample of fabric with rust print by Dahlia Drive.

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