Oak Parker Zoe Haralambidis, recognized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, wearing the dress she designed and painted in quarantine for the #MetGalaChallenge, courtesy of Christos Haralambidis

In her award-winning “Problem Coat”, Zoe Haralambidis was one of five youth designers selected in a 2019 design competition organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in conjunction with Virgil Abloh’s “Figures of Speech” exhibition. Jeremy Lawson? MCA Chicago

From flotsam to fashion to mead

More than a month after the quarantine, Vogue Magazine and Billy Porter posted an Instagram #MetGalaChallenge. What can a fashion-conscious, artistic, and resourceful teenager do?

If you’re Zoe Haralambidis, an aspiring senior at Oak Park and River Forest High School, raid the fabric and craft supplies in your “humble home” and start creating.

The Met Gala is an annual event that opens the Spring Exhibition at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Not a stuffy event, it attracts celebrities and black tie fashionistas based on the theme of the new exhibition. Many red carpet get-ups from the past turned heads for their daring forms of evening wear.

With the exhibition opening on October and the 2020 gala in question, Vogue and actor / singer Billy Porter, known for wearing innovative looks on the red carpet himself, like his fringed mechanized hat at the 2020 Grammys, launched a challenge . for those who still crave the glamor and extravagance that usually comes with the night. “

The #MetGalaChallenge invited everyone to recreate a look from a past gala. Manufacturers could use whatever materials they wanted. However, this started on April 22nd – deep in quarantine for many, so the idea was to only use existing supplies. The gala would have been May 4th, so turnaround time for the challenge was quick.

Zoe modeled her look after Vera Wang’s Sistine Chapel dress by Ariana Grande – a strapless ball gown with fabric covered with picturesque figures such as angels.

“I’m a bit of a fabric and crafting lover, so I had a lot of choices for this project,” said Zoe.

“Miraculously, I managed to put this dress together with the petticoat in about four to five very intense days,” she said. “I also did classwork, which saved most of the night and afternoon work. I made a very detailed schedule for myself, but as with all projects, it took a lot longer than expected. I had to pull through one night on the last day to get everything done. “

Zoe said she was primarily self-taught in garment construction and design after learning to sew from her mother around the age of 5 and attending a fashion-related summer camp at the Art Institute’s school in middle school.

For her #MetGalaChallenge dress, she used a wedding dress pattern from the 1970s and combined fabrics such as canvas, tulle, light cotton and organza. She was innovative with deliveries.

“The internal structure of the top got a little tricky in terms of material,” said Zoe. “I ran out of bones to support the strapless top, so I used zip ties instead.”

While the Michelangelo Arianna Grande dress had art inspired, Zoe sought inspiration from other artists – Warhol and Matisse – two artists she loves for “their simple, gestural illustrations.”

“I’m someone who has a tendency to complicate things and add excessive detail. So that was really a breath of fresh air.”

To paint the canvas sections of the dress, Zoe carefully mixed acrylic paints to achieve the colors she wanted. Mixing the acrylics with the fabric medium presented other challenges.

“To save material, I used less fabric than recommended, which made the fabric very stiff,” she said. “The fabric I painted the skirt on was already a stiff canvas, making it difficult to drape the skirt the way I wanted it to be.”

After hundreds of submissions, The Met selected their 14 favorite designs. Zoe and her dress were selected, and she was featured on the art museum’s blog and social pages.

This wasn’t the first time Zoe had been recognized by an art museum. Around this time last year, she showed her first fashion collection, Distorted Girlhood, at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Chicago as part of 21Minus. And in connection with Virgil Abloh’s exhibition “Figures of Speech”, the MCA started a youth design competition. Five designs were selected and Zoe’s coat, partly made from an Ikea bag, was among them. The finished product, Problems Coat, was just as much a statement as a piece of clothing and worth a place in the exhibition.

“Facebook produced videos that record our design processes and were shown before the museum exhibition,” she said.

In Zoe’s video, she explains that one aspect of fur design is addressing the changing list of problems that one deals with every day. She added removable sticky notes with issues that can stick to the coat. In viewing the notes, the wearer could avoid others questioning their “bad mood” or “sour face” as they could instead consult the list of problems.

“What fascinates me about fashion is that it is so closely related to culture,” said the teenager, who is also interested in racial activism and feminism.

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