Plastic dresses inspired by the ocean? What will those crazy fashion-designing kids think up next?
Last week was Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in NY City. I know this because I watch Project Runway, the only reality show I can admit to watching without embarrassment because it’s all about talent and creativity. And in fact, last summer, I got to have lunch with Tim Gunn, who is as nice in person as he appears on the show.
So it was with disappointment I learned that a couple of contestants from the show have been co-opted by the plastics industry. (Thanks, Brande, for sending me the link.) Winners of the 2009 Plastics Make It Possible Design Competition sponsored by the American Chemistry Council (the mouthpiece of the plastics industry), designers Daniel Feld and Wesley Nault created a gorgeous collection of looks called WesFeld, inspired by ocean life. The dresses really are breathtakingly beautiful as well as sadly ironic.
As Wes explains in an interview on the Luxury Fashion blog,
[Our] inspiration is from things that wash up upon shore, like seashells, exoskeletons, starfish, sea glass. We are working with corals, opaque, and neutral colors.
Conspicuously omitted from the list of objects that wash up on shore: plastic trash.
I’ll give the designers the benefit of the doubt. They may not know about the problem of ocean plastic pollution or understand the irony of their designs. But the American Chemistry Council does. In fact, I believe that the ACC is so aware of the irony that it edited out any mention of the ocean or sea that had originally appeared in their article about WesFeld! They may not have counted on the fact that other bloggers had already quoted the original piece.
Check this out. The blog Project RunGay quotes the Plastics Make It Possible Web Site:
Though competition was fierce, WesFeld rose to the top with their use of plastics in creating two looks they titled, “Oceanic Structures.” These wave-like dresses feature materials, such as poly-organza and poly-taffeta, while plastic woven interfacing and plastic boning structure each panel. Even the piping, which gives the dress a satin-like luxury shimmer, is poly. From fiber to fit, these seashell inspired gowns truly are made possible by plastics.”
Now, check out the “original” paragraph on the Plastics Make It Possible web site:
Though competition was fierce, WesFeld rose to the top with their use of plastics in creating the two looks they titled. These wave-like dresses feature materials, such as poly-organza and poly-taffeta, while plastic woven interfacing and plastic boning structure each panel. Even the piping, which gives the dress a satin-like luxury shimmer, is poly. From fiber to fit, these shell inspired gowns truly are made possible by plastics.
The words in purple, “Oceanic Structures” and “sea” are gone entirely from the Plastics Make It Possible site. The first sentence doesn’t even make sense. And yeah, I am the type of person who notices details like this. I’m also the kind of obsessive person who would save a screen shot of the PMIP web site in case they decide to edit that article yet again.
In addition, the Project RunGay site quotes the designers explaining in more detail the oceanic theme of the collection:
The inspiration for this set is inspired by oceanic structures that wash up on shore and slowly bleach out in color by the sun… Emulating the armorial like panels found in nature was not an easy task.. Thankfully after long periods of experimenting we discovered that the plastic woven interfacing and plastic boning would give us the ability to morph our opaque fabrications into something that came to life…
Life from plastic. Plastic imitating nature. I don’t know for sure that the above quote is from the Plastics Make It Possible site, but if it is, it’s not there anymore.
So why would the American Chemistry Council remove references to the ocean from their web site? What is it that they don’t want you to think about?
Plastics Make Ocean Pollution Possible
Plastic pollution is a terrible problem in the world’s oceans. Not only is there a swirling plastic soup in the North Pacific Gyre, discovered 10 years ago by Captain Charles Moore, but a current research team have discovered plastic pollution in the North Atlantic gyre as well. In fact, according to the web site 5 Gyres,
…there are 5 major oceanic gyres worldwide, with several smaller gyres in Alaska and Antarctica. Marine researchers don’t yet know the extent to which plastic pollution exists in the world’s oceans.
Plastic has been found inside the bodies of food fish, making its way up the food chain. And plastics in the ocean attract and accumulate oil-based pollutants like PCBs, so the plastic particles making their way into our food stream are exceptionally toxic.
Plastic litters the word’s beaches, turning them into plastic trash dumps.
Plastic in the ocean harms albatrosses that eat it thinking it’s food and sea turtles that mistake plastic bags for jellyfish. And lest you think that this problem is the fault of consumers and their litter, plastics manufacturers contribute to the problem in a massive way. “Nurdles,” those preproduction plastic pellets from which all plastic products are produced, make their way to the ocean in huge quantities, collecting in and polluting the zooplankton, the very bottom of the food chain.
Perhaps the American Chemistry Council wishes they had awarded their prize to a less ironic design. On the other hand, perhaps they are counting on the public not to notice. The dresses are mesmerizing, aren’t they?