A moment in time
There are two threads that run through the designs of Nashville-based Jeff Garner, whose Prophetik label will be a headliner at Ottawa Fashion Week in two weeks. One is historical, the other is sustainable.
Every runway show evokes a story. Take “Courtly Love,” the collection Garner unveiled at London Fashion Week in February. One observer read a storyline where French aristocrats fled their châteaux during the revolution with little but the faded finery on their backs.
“Dilapidated grandeur is a swift way to my heart,” wrote designer and fashion critic Nick Bain. “Miss Havisham tattered damask silks, some grubby knees and evocations of bygone glories are a quick way to inspire me.”
Others saw hints of Shakespearean, Victorian, Georgian and equestrian influences. Garner’s gowns were often swagged, with peplums and ruched, in shades of off-white and blush. Women came out in jodhpurs and cutaway coats. Men wore riding boots and kilts, both in traditional plaid and — echoes of Americana — quilted cotton prints. And pink for men, from rich coral to faded rose.
Garner comes by his fashion influences honestly. He grew up on a horse farm in Franklin, Tennessee, inspired by the dressmaking techniques of the Civil War era, when gowns were taken apart to create new dresses.
And that’s where the sustainability comes in. Garner reimagines the silhouettes of the past and gives them a twist. He works with recycled materials and fabrics like flax and hemp, naturally softened with baking soda. He uses plant and earth-based dyes from a community garden in Nashville.
Garner’s shows are noted for their atmosphere. His “Midnight Garden” collection, for example, opened in London with a trio of bluegrass musicians.
Ottawa Fashion Week creative director Bruno Racine says he was hoping Garner would come to OFW last February, but Garner had to decline because the invitation conflicted with an appearance in London. This time around, he is appearing thanks to a grant program that supports promoting American culture to Canadian audiences.
Ottawa is the perfect showcase for ethical fashion, says Garner.
“The nation is younger and the energy of change and sustainability seems to thrive in this environment.”
Hollywood has taken notice of Garner’s esthetic and his eco-vision. He has been a costume designer for — among others — Miley Cyrus, Sheryl Crow, the Jonas Brothers, Kings of Leon and Barry Manilow.
Jazz musician Esperanza Spalding wore an ice-blue strapless gown designed by Garner on the red carpet at the Oscars this year, winning Vogue.com’s applause for one of the “10 best-dressed.” Spalding wore another off-white, one-shouldered Prophetik gown with delicate swags of chain around the neckline for an awards ceremony performance.
Actress Suzy Amis Cameron, wife of Titanic director James Cameron, wore a pale-blue Prophetik gown at the London launch of Titanic 3D. It was dyed with Japanese indigo grown in the community garden.
Meanwhile, visitors to Ottawa Fashion Week who are looking for the historical influences in his new collection had better fast-forward it to the mid-20th century and one of the world’s most influential fashion icons, Princess Grace, who went from film star to royalty in 1956 when she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco.
Earlier this month, the 42 Princess Grace-inspired gowns in Garner’s “a dress to change the world” collection were featured in the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It was the gallery’s first-ever runway show.
“I was asked by Johanna Flore of Ladies and the City in Monaco to do a tribute collection for the royal family as a contribution to the 30th anniversary of Princess Grace sponsoring the Princess Grace Foundation, USA,” Garner explains.
The collection was created with sustainable fabrics such as hemp, silk with hemp, boiled wool, organic cotton, vintage lace, and recycled fabric.
“The vintage lace dresses are a romantic vision highlighting the feminine beauty of past days,” he says.
Ottawa Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2013
Where: Sala San Marco, 215 Preston St. There will be vendors set up outside the banquet hall under big tents.
When: Oct. 12-14
Designers confirmed so far. Times subject to change.
Friday, Oct. 12:
6 p.m.: Loccocina
8 p.m.: MUSE par Christian Chenail, Geneviève Lima, Korto Momolu
10 p.m.: Alfred-Marcel, TBA, Vivi par Geneviève Couture
6 p.m.: Guertina Cruz, Voyou
8 p.m.: Jana Hanzel & Emilia Torabi, EyeThread, Copious
10 p.m.: Illyria Pestich & Good Luck Shirts, Serendipity by Kelsey McIntyre, Y!D.N.A Collection
6 p.m.: Melow par Mélissa Bolduc, Alice & Alishka, Solace by Shweta Wahi
8 p.m.: Elena Hinke Haute Couture, Dare by Gwen Madiba
9:15: Prophetik by Jeff Garner Charity show event
For more information, visit ottawafashionweek.ca