For a time, Adrienne Antonson lived in a cabin in the deep woods, where she developed an appreciation for a surprising list of items she could "translate into something meticulous," including "waste and lint and things like that." She once cleverly appropriated all the leftovers from hundreds of used tea bags to embellish a beautiful gown. First, she separated the tea leaves to serve as fabric dye. The filter papers were carefully spread apart and ironed flat, or rolled, or stitched into crinkly bunches, then attached at the skirt. (Later, from the tea bags' remaining strings and tabs, she fashioned an intricate wall hanging.) For a different dress, she adorned the bodice with a "crazy network of old rubber bands," which sag elegantly, like piles of rotting lace.
"Work with what you have," says Adrienne, whose womenswear collection is available at Capitol Hill's NuBe Green—an emporium of sustainable, organic, and local goods. Adrienne begins with vintage apparel, transforming it into something "more relevant, more modern, and better" using materials culled from thrift stores and estate sales, such as antique bed ticking, a patchwork baby quilt, or a stained wedding dress "embedded with energy." She'll set a patch pocket from a mechanic's jumpsuit to an art smock—against the dainty flower print, the sturdy denim creates an "intersection of unexpected patterns." For a sculptural effect, she'll reorient a garment: A cashmere sweater is turned backward, the sleeve opening now the neck. Or a dress is inverted and delicately refigured into a skirt, now a "silk concoction."
Things suddenly get weird. Years ago, both Adrienne and her roommate had long blond hair, and the accrual of shower-drain clots "seemed really wasteful to throw away." So she harvested them instead, using the puffs of dead hair to form a range of conceptual art garments, such as gloves. The trial pair was too boxy at first, resembling the type used for gardening—but Adrienne soon learned to shape them into the "demure evening" style she'd envisioned. To create panties, she pressed and hand-stitched the collection of matted swirls, forming a cloth. She chose a full waistband (because modest cuts are sexier), the edges trimmed in lace, and she'd strategically invited a range of brunette friends to bathe at her place for a while—their leavings supplied the ombré darkening effect at the crotch.
Adrienne's studio is a chamber of oddities. She describes it as a nest, piled with objects, and everywhere are lovely old jars displaying specimens. Bird eggs, cat whiskers, and "wings of things," for instance. Strands of hair from cows (gathered from a farm), horses (from a fence), and people (clumped to a barrette, still). There are teeth, too: her own, her grandpa's. And porcupine quills (they have a "mild carcass" odor).
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