Design Showcase Highlights Art to Wear
Cricket Luker’s two stores highlight two of her passions. Wildflowers Too in Barnegat Light is the art gallery associated with the clothing boutique Wildflowers, located just a few doors down on Broadway. The annual Design Showcase, which takes place at the art gallery, is an opportunity for Luker to display the intersection of these passions, by selling clothing that she describes as “art to wear.”
The making of any article of clothing usually involves aesthetic considerations, and could be considered a kind of art. But art to wear implies work intended to be accepted as a unique artistic creation, one beyond the kind of aesthetic statement the average article of clothing would make. These were the kinds of pieces on display at the Wildflowers Too Design Showcase on Aug. 24.
Maggie Smith Roedema, who manages Wildflowers Too, said the Design Showcase “gives us a chance to showcase special, often one-of-a-kind designer clothes, jewelry and accessories.” Indeed, among the paintings and photographs hanging on the walls of the gallery were colorful and unique dresses and scarves.
Of the wearable art at this year’s Design Showcase, most prominently displayed was the work of Japanese fiber artist Mieko Mintz. Mintz is a Japanese woman who uses recycled Indian saris to create vibrant kantha jackets. In the kantha process, popular in South Asia, old saris are stacked on each other and hand-stitched to make a thin piece of quilt-like cushion. The meticulous stitching that goes into this process shows through the final product. At the Display Showcase, several customers gathered around one of Mintz’s jackets, looking at the thousands of stitches on the left sleeve.
For Luker, allowing people the opportunity to interact with Mintz’s pieces up close was part of what the design showcase was all about. “When I first presented her works, they were hanging on the wall; you couldn’t touch it. Tonight you can feel it. You can feel how soft the jackets are. She pre-washes them so it’s like wearing a bathrobe.”
Customers had the opportunity both to try on the pieces themselves and to see what they looked like on a live model. Throughout the evening, model Kerith Creo was walking around the event dressed in many elegant outfits “encouraging people to try things on,” as she put it. “It’s fun,” Creo said. “Sometimes people are shy about trying things on, but when they see it on a live form, see it moving through space, they get the encouragement they need.”
Roedema said Creo “is beautiful and shows off the clothes to great advantage. And she is such a great woman – her energy and her style show everyone there what it can feel like to wear these amazing things.” She added, “We love that it’s an evening event, as it makes it feel like a party dedicated to appreciating and enjoying beautiful, creative things. And we get to eat, drink, get to know each other and play in the sort of magical aura that the evening creates.”
JoAnne Catelli, a resident of Barnegat Light and self-described weekly customer of Wildflowers, purchased a jacket at the event. She described her style as “hippie gypsy beach mamma,” and said she finds the jackets to be “very boho chic.” For her, the jacket she purchased perfectly matched her aesthetic, as the “one side is more artsy and the other is more hippy.” Catelli loves that the clothes at Wildflowers are unique and said, “You never see yourself coming and going” when she wears clothes from the boutique.
In addition to Mintz’s kantha jackets, attendees of the designer showcase also enjoyed trying on pieces from Studio Suna, which is associated with Mintz’s work. These pieces included a dress woven out of ribbons, a blue jacket adorned with puff balls that looked like sea foam, a jacket made of recycled plastic and fishing wire, and even more creative and truly artistic designs. “When you’re wearing one of these pieces,” said Luker, “it really feels like you’re wearing a piece of the artist’s soul.”
Luker said the pieces on display at the design showcase will be up for another month – that is, if they don’t sell out before then.
— Tim Hone