It appears to be every inch — or frame — haute couture. The designer dress to which Jeanine Briggs is applying the finishing touches in her Kenwood studio is a sleek, shiny black number that gently falls over the curves of her mannequin. The hem falls in shimmery strips to the ankles.
Film strips, that is.
This fashionable number could have generated quite the buzz if it had been worn by an edgy star on the Oscars' red carpet. Briggs constructed it completely out of film. And not just any film.
A scrap artist, Briggs re-edited the 2006 Chinese action film "Dragon Tiger Gate," something she found scrounging about for discarded objects, into a celluloid gown.
And while the original movie never earned an Oscar nod, it will have a second chance at winning an award, this time as repurposed couture at the upcoming fourth annual Trashion Fashion Show in Sonoma.
"It's what I call the transformative power of art, because the materials inform me, the process informs me and it kind of transforms my thinking," Briggs says of her motivation to take trash and turn it into art. She has been honored with artist residencies at the vastly different venues of the DeYoung Museum and the San Francisco Dump.
Her work typically takes the form of sculpture or wall art. But Briggs also loves a challenge.
So even though she is not a dress designer or seamstress, she has taken on the task, along with about four dozen other designers ranging from Girl Scouts to adult amateurs to professional artists, to upcycle trash into high "trashion."
Over the past four years, the Sonoma Community Center has sponsored an eco-fashion show that has developed into one of the hotter tickets in town. Seats are in such demand that organizers this year decided to move the March 22 event from the 150-seat Community Center, which benefits from the proceeds, to the larger Veterans Memorial Building with seating for about 400.
The idea of turning trash into clothing isn't new. What child of the Depression could forget the feedsack dress? But in recent years, born out of a concept that began in New Zealand, it's gone upscale and avant-garde, maturing into an international movement that provides a place for art, fashion and eco-consciousness to collide in strange and surprising ways.
In 2012, Glen Ellen innkeeper Alexa Wood and her longtime friend and trashion co-conspirator Joni Derickson, of Ukiah, drew gasps of approval with Phoenix Rising. Wood's blonde and beautiful daughter Lauren Krause, their frequent model who once worked for Vogue and Elle magazines, brought down the house when she lifted her arms to show off wings made of Venetian blinds.
Other past hits include a delicious Colonial hooped confection made of C&H Sugar packages and a Southern belle dress to rival Scarlett O'Hara's famous curtain gown, this one crafted out of accordioned maps.
Like high fashion, trashion has its trends.
"Broken vinyl records seems to be a trend. Coffee packaging is a recurring theme. And people are starting to do more biodegradable things like leaves and yard waste," show coordinator Margaret Hatcher said, as if she were talking about the return of low pumps and tribal prints.
"Some are very fun and very funny, but they're actually beautifully crafted and beautifully designed gowns and outfits," said Fran Meininger, who owns the upscale Sonoma consignment shop, My Girlfriend's Closet, a co-sponsor of the event. "They're certainly wearable and certainly high-fashion enough that you could wear some of them to a gala."
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here