DESIGN CONTESTANTS HAVE THIS COMPETITION ALL SEWN UP

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Fans of Project Runway will appreciate this challenge offered recently to area designers: Go to IKEA, buy some of the store's trademark outlandish fabric and use it to create a wearable outfit.

Make it work!

That's how Artscape's first Sew Me What You Got Competition is working, anyway. It will be up to the discerning public to decide which of the 15 semi-finalists hang on and compete later this summer for $1,000 and a magazine photo spread.

The contest continues Artscape's foray into the world of fashion, which started in 2005 when the summer festival made a home for clothing design and runway fashion.

Though some folks might not notice the art in the khakis they buy at the mall, thanks to popular shows such as Bravo's Project Runway, people have been able to see the effort, creativity and, at times, sheer artistry behind a dress or a coat.

"Before Project Runway, we didn't really think of a designer in that sense - we just bought the clothes," says Ty Brown, whose company, Fashion Icons, is producing the contest. "The show opened our eye to how much time it takes to make a garment, why they cost so much and what it takes to make something you love to wear."

About 20 local designers accepted Artscape's challenge, going to the White Marsh IKEA for yards of bright, bold, modern fabric. Then they were on their own - left to use their imagination and fashion sense to create looks that would appeal not only to Artscape's judges, but also to the general public.

Artscape culled the entries to 15 semifinalists, and the public will decide which contestants make it to the finals. Judges will choose a winner during Artscape, which runs July 17-19.

Outfits in the running include Candace Cruise's sexy sundress with a graphic pattern, Carlous Palmer's bold, ethnic-inspired suit, Jessica Townsend's retro party frock with a sashed waist and Dami Akinmade's off-the-shoulder black-and-white dress.

The winner gets $1,000 and a photo spread in Iconography the Magazine, a Baltimore publication.

Kathy Hornig, director of festivals for Baltimore's Office of Promotion & the Arts, said Sew Me What You Got is Artscape's way of continuing to explore the fashion world. "We wanted to do something that would generate excitement for the fashion component prior to the festival, and get the fashion community excited about fashion at Artscape."

The designs are on display through Friday at the White Marsh IKEA, 8352 Honeygo Boulevard. The store redesigned some of its showrooms to accommodate and show off the designs.

At 1 p.m. on Saturday, models will wear the outfits in a fashion show.

People can vote through Sunday for their favorites at IKEA or online. They can also vote on Sunday at Funkshon, a "networking fashion soiree" from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Red Maple, 930 N. Charles St.

If you go

"Sew Me What You Got" starts 1 p.m. Saturday at IKEA Baltimore, 8352 Honeygo Boulevard, White Marsh. Free. Call 410-752-8632 or go to artscape.org.

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