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The store handed over two heaping bags, and Helling began researching the late 1800s. "It was this period of reinvention, so I'm taking fashion elements from that time, combining them with these used items and am inventing something new," she says.
The cup pieces drive a bright, vintage-meets-modern summer dress with a Gilded Age–inspired detail: a high neck. She's also using vertical buttons and structured looks to honor the period.
Pairing used materials with new concepts, she's seeking to play on the show's theme by linking rich and poor. Her designs incorporate recycled materials (aside from the ice cream cups), including a bustle made of a burlap coffee sack. (Each piece in her collection has a lightweight, muslin underlay.)
She moved from Bloomington, Indiana, to the Kansas City area in spring 2012 and attended the West 18th Street show soon after. "I want to be a part of this," she told her husband during the show.
Her fashion-design path hasn't been traditional. She graduated from Indiana University Bloomington with a degree in studio art but didn't consider entering fashion shows until one that encouraged the use of recycled materials happened to catch her eye. That was the Indianapolis Museum of Art's 2010 Project IMA: Fashion Unbound, where she presented a party dress made from grocery-store ads and other mailers. The next year, her work was featured in Bloomington's Trashion Refashion Show.
"In high school, I would make these tube tops out of pillow cases and run shoelaces up the backs," she says. Her interest in finding a second life for materials hasn't waned since then. "I take these materials I love and make the finished product up as I go. It's so surprising and exciting."
K. Clemence Lawson pictures the colorful drapes in her West African childhood home, the fabric dancing in the breeze. Elodie Auvray longs to see an electric-blue front door on a house with red windows — a common sight in her homeland of French Caribbean, Guadeloupe.
The two JCCC fashion-design students have teamed up to present a collection inspired by their roots. "We want to make this feel like home," Lawson says.
Expect bold primary colors, cotton with sheer layering, and plenty of movement in their pieces. Gold — a nod to their heritage as well as to the show's theme — accents their work.
"Our cultures are pretty loud, so our presentation will be really energetic," Lawson says.
The women have bonded through their similarities: Both speak French and love spicy dishes. And their style differences — Lawson steers classic; Auvray leans playful — strengthen their joint work.
Lawson moved overseas to the Kansas City area with her family when she was 12 and has been drawn to fashion design as long as she can remember. Her grandmother, a talented seamstress, helped pique her interest, as have many classic designers.
"I'm drawn to designs that stay the same through time," she says. "I fell in love with ethnic designers that incorporate timeless prints."
Moods and weather heavily influence her work. She fights the gloom of winter with lace and pastels, and embraces summer with vibrant prints. Through the various looks, she stays focused on motion.
She dreams of opening a boutique in New York City. "My biggest goal is that I would want people to walk in and say, 'Wow, this is one of a kind,' " she says.
A year and a half ago, Auvray had booked a flight to France. All her friends were going, and she planned to study interior design there. At the last minute, though, she decided she didn't want to follow the crowd and canceled her trip. Instead, she headed to Kansas City, where her brother lived. "I love discovering new things," she says.