For centuries fashion designers have been creating the most daring outfits just to be noticed. Some are not practical, but they make a statement. Lately we see art being incorporated in our day-to-day life to enrich our senses in all platforms. We are free to express our feelings and emotions including on what we wear. Why not combine both to define who we are: Art and Fashion.
The dream of designing and wearing what I could not buy became a reality for two reasons: I wanted cool clothes to show the artistic side of me, but I couldn’t afford them. Many people can’t either. As a child, my mother always made cute clothes for my sister and me. She was a seamstress and pattern maker all her life in Argentina and in Portugal. She felt joy in dressing her two daughters as dolls until we were teenagers. My sister Marcela and I were a singing duo “Stella e Marcela” and her incentive was that we needed to look great on stage. Our outfits were designed and sewn by my mother with my father´s approval (our brand manager). Growing older, the excitement of shopping for clothes added to the fun and seemed to satisfy the fashionista in me.
Five years ago I was invited to join Jazz Plazma, a jazz trio that quickly became my inspiration for dressing up. The need to wear beautiful and unique outfits on stage became a fun hobby, not just for the music, but also for the opportunity to be creative with my looks. I shopped for fancy second-hand dresses and I altered them to bring them “up-a-notch”. I did not know how to make them from scratch, but I was able to modify them according to my taste. One day by coincidence I met a visionary woman that was born to change the world — Karla Stephens-Tolstoy, president of “Stand-up, Speak-up Apparel”. After we talked, I offered to submit artwork for her to print on her wearable apparel. My first drawing was “Bite Me”, a rebellious illustration to depict standing up to violence against women. This artwork was printed on a full collection that included leggings, T-shirts, kimonos, hoodies and bags. Many other drawings were used for other collections Anti-Bullying, Demand Equality, Empower Women and Foster Care. I was excited to produce my first fashion show for the Circle of Friends Breast Cancer Fundraiser in benefit of the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation led by Angela Machado. This idea from Clara Abreu, Master of Ceremonies of the event challenged me to design, produce and finance a complete collection dedicated to Breast Cancer with accessories to match. I designed and produced leather “bijou” purses to match the outfits. I found a manufacturer of luxury leather goods in North York that was perfect for my one-of-a-kind purses. Seeing my art applied to wearable items made me crave for more. I explored the possibility of printing my art on fabric and this step opened me to unlimited opportunities of creativity. I took the plunge and I printed my first 5 meters of satin with my own art. I was terrified to cut the fabric so my mother led the way. She taught me how to make a pattern and how to sew the dress that I designed. She encouraged me to do more. I wore my first designed and printed gown for the Abrigo Centre Women’s Day 2018 event and painted live. A month later, I was nominated for the Waterfront Awards 2018 in the Arts and Culture category. What an honour! When the opportunity came to do a solo art exhibition at the Peach Gallery (College Street, Toronto) in September 2018, Vince Nigro and Manuel DaCosta encouraged me to bring my vision to life. I knew what to do. I was going to wrap the gallery in printed satin. The process of making this happen was labour intensive but enjoyable. First, I painted all the paintings in large sizes, photographed them, prepared the artwork and then printed it on satin. I exhibited the paintings and printed 13 meters with my colourful art. I thought to sell it as “Art by the Meter”, but unfortunately no one bought it. Not to be dismayed I exclaimed “Great”! I will make glamorous artistic gowns. Soon I was busy designing, cutting and sewing for a few months, one by one. I kept posting each gown on social media and I received great reviews. Much to my credit, a few months later I was nominated as a finalist for the Mississauga Arts Council MARTY’s Awards in the category of Emerging Fashion and Beauty. Someone asked me “Are you wearing a Gucci”? I replied: “I am wearing a Stella Jurgen, artsy just like me.” I have worn my gowns more than once to special events and music performances. Depending on my mood, theme or the type of event, I have six to choose from.
The incorporation of art onto wearables can create a bold statement. Now we can bring the art to the streets, workplace, supermarket, wherever we go promoting artists and enriching our culture — Art is in fashion. Wear it!
What’s next? I am experimenting with recycled denim. That will be in the September issue.