The California music festival Coachella, held each April, is known as much for outrageous fashion as it is for the music. Young music lovers — and now social media influencers eager for a viral Instagram shot — converge there, wearing attention-grabbing outfits that will also stay cool under the desert sun. Halter tops and maxi skirts, dusters and bikinis, earthy tribal prints, boho, and neon and psychedelic colors create an eclectic eyeful, making people-watching just as interesting as seeing the bands.
And the focus on fashion continues at festivals throughout the summer, across the country. Here in Denver, Nue Magazine
recently presented a festival-wear fashion show at Void Studios
, when the runway came alive with creative looks aimed at frolicking to your favorite beats. There were elaborate headpieces by Fawn Fabrications
, made with electronic parts, flowers, bullet shells and deer antlers.
brought thrifted materials into new forms with cutouts, asymmetrical silhouettes and denim scraps sewn in unexpected ways. Katdog Couture
created its own wonderland with colorful characters in skater skirts, halter tops, capelets, angel wings and textured, draped fabrics. Shanti Sutra
brought body-hugging hemp casual wear down the runway in designs that looked touchably soft. Valerian Projects
wowed the audience with ornate, tie-on pixie skirts showcasing colorful tapestry materials embellished with sparkly beaded and tassel-trim details.
Designer Faye Ashwood of InspireD'Signs Zero Waste Couture
had two collections at the show. She opened the evening with her Art With Heart collection, a collaboration with artist Derek Carpenter
, displaying his paintings printed on velvet and cut into designs that flowed and danced down the runway. Ashwood closed the show with her InspireD'Signs collection of colorful crushed velvets in shimmery shades of burgundy, pink and silver.
Faye Ashwood of InspireD'Signs
A festival-goer and designer who sells her clothes by vending at festivals, Ashwood says she tries to do her market research and keep up with what's happening in all areas of fashion, from high-end designers to celebrity fashion to festival wear. She sees festival fashion currently experiencing a 1990s revival. "It's kind of weaning away from the tribal stuff and bumping up the glamour while still being comfortable," she explains.
Ashwood also sees people being a lot more conscious about sustainability. "I've noticed a lot of workshops focused on the ecological and sustainable aspects of the gathering," she adds.
For Ashwood, her fashionable creations bring an opportunity to create wearable art, use her couture skills and embark on a mission of zero-waste sustainability that all began with her family's background in theater costuming.
"My mother is a hat maker and my grandmother is a seamstress. They worked with small theater companies," Ashwood says. "So it’s kind of an inherited skill for me. I have a background in theater, and I saw how much fashion waste there was — all of the cut scraps and these gorgeous expensive ball gowns that were highly uncomfortable. I wanted to empower people to be comfortable, confident and inspired to feel their full selves."
She does that with her InspireD'Signs collection, making clothes that can be worn multiple ways and adjusted if a woman's body size changes over time.
"Velvet is my favorite material to work with, mainly because of the comfort, stretch and resilience," she explains. "I like my items to fit a lot of different body sizes. I sew everything so it can stretch graciously and offer a lot of support. They are fully adjustable looks."
Festival fashion has been criticized in the past for contributing to fast fashion and encouraging bold outfits that were purchased to wear once and thrown away after the show. Ashwood wants her clothes to be wearable long after the event is over.
"There's a lot of versatility in my clothes," she says. "They are fun to move in. They can be dancing in crowds. They double as swimwear. They can be worn at a resort or a bridal shower with your girlfriends. It has a sexy, cozy comfort, but it's still a high-class couture item. You won't want to throw it away, because it can be worn five different ways and it still accommodates you even if your body size changes."
Her clothes also include a custom-made, heart-shaped stitch that is guaranteed to make the seams last for life. "I want to minimize fashion waste," she says. "If you rip a seam with any other garment, it's a sad situation. But with mine, I guarantee it will last. I want to keep my clothes out of the landfills."
Ashwood met Carpenter, with whom she collaborated for her Art With Heart collection, through local nightclubs, and formed a bond because they had similar day jobs. "He's a contractor and I'm an electrical apprentice. Before we completely moved into art, we were working our day jobs and going out at night, just exhausting ourselves. We were always fans of one another's art, so we threw around the idea of working together, and it just snowballed from there," she explains.
For all Art With Heart purchases, 50 percent of the proceeds are donated to environmental charities and families and businesses affected by Colorado wildfires and natural disasters. "I really want to be as impactful as I can as a designer," Ashwood says.
Ashwood doesn't see herself limited to just festival wear. She says she has a diverse range of clients and her clothes are very fluid, working with all identities, people and styles; she also has a masculine section that includes trousers and hooded vests. She says a lot of performers and "big-haired ladies in Texas" love her clothes, and more mature women gravitate to her turban styles and kimono outerwear.
The Denver native has been collecting materials and custom-tailoring pieces since 2006. She believes Denver's fashion scene is small but growing, and a lot of creativity is fueled by the city's cold winters. "When there's nothing to do but throw snow for three months out of the year, we get bored and start making things!" she laughs.
For her business, she wears many hats —
making the clothes and doing her own photography, videography and website curation. The whole goal of her brand is zero waste, which means sourcing her own fabrics. "I use a lot of offcuts, salvaged pieces from other designers. A lot of it is gifted to me by people who don't want the fabric," she says.
Ashwood says she hopes to inspire people to be creative and think outside the box when it comes to reusing resources. "Everything has a purpose, and it might not be its original intended purpose," she says. "There is creativity behind the smallest things. If people can find inspiration in that and push it forward, it will make fashion a more sustainable industry."
InspireD'Signs Zero Waste Couture can be found at ZeroWasteCouture.com, and will be vending at the Five Points Jazz Festival on June 4, and Sonic Bloom Festival, June 16-19.