Fashion on the edge at NSCAD

Laura May Taylor brings zombies, ghosts to university’s wearable art show
Laura May Taylor’s personality is larger than life, much like the pieces she has prepared for NSCAD University’s 23rd wearable art show, taking place Thursday night at the Marquee Ballroom in Halifax.

The arts student, who is the same age as the show, exudes eccentricity.

Her hair is the colour of cotton candy: blue, green and purple. It has been back-combed until it appears as large as her abstract ideas.

“Teeth, brains, eyeballs — you know, the normal stuff that clothing is made with. This one with stilts has elongated fingers too,” she said when describing her collection for the showcase.

Taylor has made five pieces inspired by a zombie, a skeleton, a Digimon, a shared experience and a ghost.

“The ghost was thinking of the body and the spirit extending after life. It was created with the passing of my grandfather in mind — how the ghost is another extension to the body, which creates this distorted humanoid figure,” she said of the long white dress, to be worn while on stilts, that covers a person’s face while the whole thing is lit by black light.

Usually one to volunteer at the event, this is Taylor’s first time contributing to the show. She will be one of 15 designers.

Although she’s made her own clothes since she was six, a class she took this year titled Fibre Fabric Fashion taught her new techniques she’s used to make the pieces.

These include working with the water soluble stabilizer Solvy, which allows a seamstress to create lace-like structures; needle felting and wet felting woolen fabrics; and lots of crocheting, including creating woollen tights, taking 10 hours to complete each leg.

How did the artist who is as multifaceted as the fashion in the showcase — working as a lighting technician, a circus instructor, a pole fitness competitor and as a volunteer for those with Down syndrome — manage to find time for wearable art while juggling this multitude of tasks?

“I just don’t sleep.”

Taylor came to NSCAD in 2008, after attending the visual arts program at Canterbury High School in Ottawa. The intermittent student assumes she is in her third year though she’s unsure, as she takes time off from school to work on the West Coast as a lighting technician for 20th Century Fox.

The printmaker is not a fashion student, but fashion isn’t what wearable art is about.

“It is an opportunity for people who aren’t fashion students and from all these different mediums to be able to make work for the body,” said Justin Lees, organizer of this year’s student-run event.

“Here we are at an arts institution in a fashion studio, so fashion is still an art; this is just the extreme side of it.”

Lees has taken on the task as part of his internship credits through the school’s extended studies program. He had his own collection in 2011 and contributed to last year’s combined advanced fashion and wearable art show.

It’s his first time in an organizational role but, for the fashion major whose own work consists of elaborating or distorting the body, the job fits.

The Marquee Ballroom is a long way from the show’s original conception in 1991, when it took place in the school’s cafeteria and onlooking students could smoke cigarettes and drink beer as others walked the catwalk.

“It just kind of pairs well with the wearable art show,” Lees said of the Marquee, which has mannequins and bicycles hanging from the ceiling.

“It’s weirdly over the top and the wearable art show, as you’ve seen from Laura’s pieces, is incredibly weird and over the top and just really fun.”

Over 30 models will take part.

Taylor’s circus friends are helping to model her creations. Cait Anthony, a contortionist, will be wearing her detailed zombie dress. Vanessa Furlong will wear the ghost while walking on stilts, and Danielle Archer, an aerial hoopist, will be wearing a Digimon-inspired felted bell-shaped sweater.

Taylor loves her creations and plans on wearing them casually in the future.

“When I started at NSCAD, I promised myself that I would only make stuff that I would like to wear or, if it’s imagery, I would only make stuff that I would like to have tattooed on myself.”

The event is a fundraiser for the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia.

Originally published in The Chronicle Herald

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