Charlotte’s QC GarMINT District runway show lets local designers shine
Gordon Holliday didn't set out to become a fashion designer. The Baltimore native wanted to be an artist, but when he got to college, he was intrigued by how people dressed to express themselves. So he set out to use his creative skills to elevate fashion — to make items that folks don't just want to wear, but that they're proud of and want to keep.
"With anything I create, I want to make something that is cherish-able," said Holliday, who now lives and works in Charlotte.
Expect to see a lot of clothing items to be cherished Wednesday night in uptown for a fashion event called QC GarMINT District. Five fashion designers from the region, including Holliday, will headline the event, with their works featured on models in a runway show.
The show, organized by the Mint Museum, involved a lot of Charlotte creative-scene movers and shakers coming together. DUPP&SWATT co-owner Davita Galloway is involved, model and runway coach Jennifer Michelle helped out, influencer and podcast host Ohavia Phillips is emceeing and BLKMRKTCLT's Dammit Wesley is DJing.
It's not just a runway show, either. The event will include a pop-up market with 50 local vendors.
"This fashion show links Charlotte designers to the celebration of world culture and street fashion on view in 'The World of Anna Sui' at Mint Museum Randolph, but it also highlights the importance of fashion to our city and to the museum’s recognition of all forms of creativity and innovation, whether painting, sculpture, craft, design or fashion,” said Jen Sudul Edwards, the Mint's chief curator, in a statement announcing the event.
Megan Lagueruela is coming into town from Greensboro for the show. The fiber artist's fashion line, Megan-Ilene, features biodegradable clothes created with a zero-waste mindset that are all made in North Carolina.
She generally makes clothes that are ready to wear, but she's tweaking a few things for QC GarMINT District — a mix of experimental items and clothes that she already has available.
"The leftover textiles that I have from cutting out my patterns, I save all of them and then I cut them up into pieces and put them back into new fabrics that I'm weaving," Lagueruela said, describing her zero-waste weaving process.
She's particularly proud of one of the pieces she's debuting in the show.
"I have a friend who owns a specific type of printer that works with dyes instead of ink, because ink is plastic-based and dye is not," Lagueruela said. "She printed a blown-up version of one of my weavings onto some fabric, and I made a pretty interesting asymmetrical dress with it, so it looks like it's woven, but it's actually a picture of a weaving."
It's not Lagueruela's first time putting together a runway show. In fact, she had to do the fall/winter 2021 New York Fashion Week on the fly when a company asked if she could get a collection together in just four weeks. She didn't get to attend in person because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Things weren't as rushed for QC GarMINT District.
"I did have a little bit more time," she said with a laugh. "I had a little bit more experience. The more you create, the more of a library you're able to have on tap."
Holliday, on the other hand, won't have to travel as far for the show. But the collection he's debuting Wednesday? Well, that's been a journey — one he's been on for about a year.
Holiday works with textiles and fibers and is an artist in residence at Charlotte's Brooklyn Collective. He's been making waves in recent years for his focus on sustainability — especially is "up-cycle" use of previously owned or donated items — through his RENEW REWORK ROOLĒ brand.
On Wednesday, he's debuting his Yasuke Collection — kimonos inspired by the story of a 16th-century African man who traveled to Japan and became a samurai warrior. He learned about Yasuke after researching Asian and Black cultural history with a lens on civil rights. Before that, he'd only really seen pop culture depictions of Black samurais.
"For there to actually be a historical context of a real African samurai? I was like, 'Wow, what does that look like?' Because I'm only going off what I'm reading, but what does it actually physically look like?" Holliday said.
So, he set about designing, meshing traditional Japanese stitching techniques with a bit of 21st-century flare.
"I wanted to reimagine what this samurai warrior wore in a modern context," Holliday said. "... I was inspired by traditional Japanese quilting styles called sashiko and boro, and that style really was the inspiration for my collection. There are elements of patchwork design — just different ways to quilt the materials that are upcycled."
The Mint describes QC GarMINT District as a "prelude" to the "Fashion Reimagined" exhibition and catalog, which will premiere in December to mark 50 years since the museum began its fashion collection. Next week's event is part of Wednesday Night Live, a partnership between three of the city's cultural institutions — the Mint, the Gantt Center and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art — to offer free admission one night a week, with bigger rotating events, such as the fashion show.
The free event starts at 5 p.m. Wednesday, and the runway show itself steps off at 7. Organizers note that seating is first come, first serve. There's more information on the Mint's website.