Quintessentially Alaskan

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Object Runway and how excited I am to be walking three looks down the runway this year.

Last year, I walked one look down the runway entirely made of old sweaters that I felted in my washing machine and then cut up and used as fabric to create this dress and head piece.

Queen of the North by MC ShellThis year, I wanted to expand my vocabulary and add other fibers to my designs. I will then use this mixed fiber palette to create three looks that work together–a kind of mini-collection.

I’ve set up guidelines for myself in preparation for designing these pieces.

The fibers/fabrics used must be repurposed. This means I must hunt for materials at Value Village and the Salvation Army Thrift Store.

The designs must all be REALLY wearable. I know this puts me at a disadvantage in this competition because there is alot of WOW factor when your model is wearing wood or metal, but I am okay with that. I am hoping that my WOW comes from the beauty of the piece. Which brings me to my third guideline.

I want the people sitting in the audience to say to themselves, “I’d wear that. I want that.”

Next, I want the fibers used to be quintessentially Alaskan.

What does that mean? Can fibers can evoke place? I say absolutely.

What do you think when you see these fabrics?

images-2 images UnknownI’ve been hunting for quintessentially Alaskan fabrics and so far this is what I come up with.

The first and easiest to find is wool. I love wool. The more I work with it the more I love it. I believe felted wool has magically properties. It is warm, but not too warm. It is water resistant, fire retardant, and long wearing. So of course, wool will be part of my designs.

MC Shell Stash MC Shell StashLong underwear especially the old school type has some real appeal for me.

MC Shell Long UnderwearNothing says I like to chop wood like Pendleton Wool. Another reason I like this fiber is because it is a print. So far I’ve found three good shirts.

MC Shell Pendleton WoolThe color and weight of Carhartts is absolutely Alaskan for me. I would like to use this fiber, but these jeans are still very expensive even at the thrift store. If I find a giant man’s pair, I will buy them, but I haven’t yet.

MC Shell Carhartt MC Shell CarharttOld school Jacket Liners are interesting to me. I like that they are quilted and the green complements the plaid. So far I have found two of these.

MC Shell Jacket LinersHunting Camouflage is Alaskan for sure, but I think these folks may have ruined it for me.

Duck DynastyI did buy these hunting coveralls. I am intrigued by the idea of using hunting camouflage instead of military camouflage. The down side is that camo is currently very trendy. So I am on the fence here.

MC Shell Hunting Camo MC Shell CamoThis is my starter palette. I don’t think the color combination is as exciting as I would like it to be. And I wish I could find another print that really screamed Alaska at me.

MC Shell  PaletteFrom the beginning, I’ve had it in my head that my models would wear Bunny Boots. These military issue boots are meant to be worn in temperatures well below zero. I have long wanted a pair.

Bunny BootsOf course these are good too.

imagesAnd nothing says North like these boots.

mukluks-profileI do believe I will be doing my own take on the mukluk, and it will involve this fiber. Can’t you see it?

MC Shel MukluksIn my hunt for Alaskan fibers, I sometimes find personal treasures. This week I had two finds that made my heart go pitter patter. First my very own pair of Bunny Boots! In my size and at 1/2 price.

MC Shell Bunny BootsAnd a beautiful vintage down parka made by Hansa-Branta. Isn’t it gorgeous?

MC Shell Vintage ParkaMC Shell Vintage ParkaMC Shell Vintage ParkaI’d love to hear your thoughts on fibers and place. What do you think is a Quintessentially Alaskan fiber?

This entry was published on December 13, 2013 at 8:16 PM. It’s filed under ArctiCouture, Object Runway and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

15 thoughts on “Quintessentially Alaskan

  1. What an adventure you are embarking on! Not living in Alaska, that was a hard question. I guess I would have to say “what the natives wore; before the settlers arrived”. Keep us posted!

  2. Okay, I’ve never heard of bunny boots! But wool? And a woven and felted plaid? awesome sauce! And if I find Carhartts, I’ll send them up, but they are also quintessentially American, not so much Canadian, so a rare bird here. Can’t wait to see what you create….

    • Barb–I was thinking about why you are not familiar with Bunny Boots, and it is because you are a Canadian! Bunny Boots are a US military invention. As always, thank you for your funny comments. It is always good to hear from you.

  3. Wow! Good job, Maria. I have two pair of bunny boots, a white pair and a black pair. The white are larger. If you want to borrow.

    I thought the top fabric was more of an Asian look, but loved the blue (forget-me-not).

    Not too excited about the camo; too recent to Alaska culture.The military green heavy denim speaks more to vintage Alaskan. In 50’s and 60’s, we got all of our winter gear, hunting gear, etc. from Army surplus. Everybody did. It was warm, durable and made for arctic conditions. The warm flight suits and parkas with their shiny surfaces to repel water were indispensable. The green wool blankets were also awesome! I recently checked them out at GI Joe’s and they were tres’ espensive. I used to use them as quilt liners to make warm quilts for winter. They are preshrunk and hella durable.

    Can’t wait to see what you come up with. I know it will be beautiful, creative and wearable.

  4. Pingback: Mat Made Stripes | Maria Shell

  5. Fleece is on sale now and so much fun to cut without raveling for fringe. Some of the prints are awesome with eagles flying, camo and lots of animal prints and textures. Best part is washability–sorry, polyester, but take another look. Have had fun with grandchildren’s gifts. Fast and practical and so soft and comfy.

  6. Jane Iverson on said:

    Maria, when I think of Alaska, I see the Northern Lights. This is how the punch of colour could be added to your palette. I envision ‘streaky’ hand dyed fabrics. This could work even in wool.

    • Good points Jane. Although what I am trying to do is use fibers that we think of as Alaskan not images that we think of as Alaskan. Maybe next year, I will do that. At one point I had thought about doing Alaskan elements such as glacier ice, and the northern lights would be a perfect fit for that.

  7. Sue Tague on said:

    Hi Maria?.what a fun project!I remember seeing a semi translucent fish skin that the native people used..it was at the museum, so I’m sure you won’t find it in the thrift store, but you might be able to find something that would give the impression..just a thought.I hope you get plenty of pix at the show..can’t wait toseewhat you come up with.

  8. Sue Tague on said:

    Ps..To me, those three fabrics don’t say Alaska as much as the ones you mention later on in the piece, but you are the one with the vision of how to use them.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: