Eleanor Hoffman
  • Photo by Sarah Ewald
  • Designer Eleanor Hoffman works on her collection in Leazar studio.

When showing a collection, a designer’s job is to take the audience into his or her own created world. Two designers in this year’s Art to Wear (A2W) are pulling from different locales to put their looks in proper context.

Designer Eleanor Hoffman’s collection stems from images of mirrors, moonlight and circles. Two poems, Lorenzo Smerillo’s Maze and Maria Taylor’s Birmingham 1982, serve as initial inspiration points, tacked on the wall above her work space’s sewing machine for easy reference, along with pieces of fabric cut in leaf-like shapes. The moon reference will even make it into her selected runway music, a Grizzly Bear remix of Feist’s “My Moon My Man.”

“[I wanted it to be] an enchanted forest, and to have a magical feel,” Hoffman says of her line. Nowhere is this more evident than her plan for a model sporting antlers, taken from her favorite childhood book Imogen’s Antlers. Hoffman’s motifs include natural forms and use fluid lines. She’s using embellishments and laser-cut appliqués made from stencils, so she’s logged some significant time using the College of Design’s laser-cutting machine.

“It’s definitely been a learning experience,” Hoffman says of creating her line, citing examples of bleach and screen-printing mishaps. But she says they’ve turned out to be happy accidents, with the added bonus of making her work look more graphic.

Hoffman had previously designed in the 2009 A2W show, so she knew the ropes pretty well. That experience helped for this year, now that she’s pulling double duty, participating as both a designer and the event’s director. She agreed to fill the capacity before the 2009-10 school year began. There is currently no rule against a director designing a line.

She’s designing one short dress, three long dresses and two jacket and pant sets. Mannequin forms next to her Leazar workspace sport works in progress. A floor-length, one-shoulder dress with a leaf cutout and a pair of pants with beads and a racing stripe silver paint speak to Hoffman’s affinity for detail.

Designer Chase Kennedy is A2W’s youngest participant, being a junior in fashion and textile management. He should be used to this: He was the youngest designer last year as he was the only 19-year-old chosen to show.

Kennedy works in the College of Textiles (COT) apparel lab, with his collection housed on a rack in a room off the main lab. While Kennedy works, he updates an organized spreadsheet detailing, among other aspects, the looks he’s created, the garments he needs to finish and the total costs associated with each piece for 18 models.

A Martin Scorcese fan, Kennedy became inspired by trailers for the then-unreleased Shutter Island. The asylum theme evolved after he heard Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” while driving one day. His collection uses stripes and chevrons within a stark black and white palette, with structure pulled from menswear. Keeping in line with his theme, he plans to send out his models tied up with gags in their mouths.

Kennedy is using unconventional materials such as PVC plastic and spray paint to achieve an ombré effect for jeans, as well as COT’s 3-D knitting machine. He also brought in some sophisticated knowledge to use in his line. On many pieces, he’s used couture stitching, where the top stitch that’s seen in public changes color as the garment changes stripes. Since most of his pieces use stripes, this has taken a considerable amount of time.

Chase Kennedy
  • Photo by Sarah Ewald
  • Designer Chase Kennedy shows off his mad couture skills in the COT apparel lab.

Instead of heading out to an assigned salon for hair and makeup last year, Kennedy took the lo-fi approach and readied his models in a bathroom before the show.

“I didn’t want [the hair] to overpower the clothes, but to complement them,” Kennedy says. At the time of the interview, he wasn’t sure whether he’d use his assigned salon for his models this year.

Kennedy has already thought up one use for the men’s pieces after the show.

“I can always wear them for a job interview,” Kennedy says. Which may come after next year’s A2W, when Kennedy may finally have younger fellow contestants.

The Art to Wear show happens tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Reynolds Colisuem on N.C. State’s campus.