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Fashion Fri Nov 02 2012

On the Origin of Design: Renovar Spring 2013

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Alma Weiser is a clever, thoughtful encyclopedia of knowledge. One can gleam even a fraction of her intellect and curiosity for history and design upon talking to her for a few minutes. As a fashion designer for Renovar, her past influences ranged from Louise Nevelson to Elsa Schiaparelli. Nevelson, an American sculptor of the early 20th century, created large, monochromatic, and complex sculptures. Schiaparelli, an Italian fashion designer and rival of Coco Chanel, was driven by the works and ideas of the Surrealists.

In Weiser's latest collection, "On The Origin of Species," her main point of focus is Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. Low concept, she is not. In fact, what ultimately makes Weiser such a fascinating and driven designer is her dedication to history, to conceptualism, to fashion for fashion's sake. "On The Origin of Species" premieres Saturday, November 3 at Heaven Gallery.

Weiser comes from a Pentecostal background, and she admits that this latest collection is a reckoning of sorts. "This is my reconciliation with creation and evolution," she said. "I just realized this show is controversial. For me, it's totally fine. I can mix my science with God." This is less about proving which side of the debate is correct and more about examining the ways in which a religious background can meld with the discoveries and truth within science.

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The majority of the collection (about 12 to 14 looks) was created out of reconstructed vintage clothing. The skirts, dresses, and shirts Weiser spent time collecting are majestic and colorful with animal and floral prints, a "mixing of the species," as Weiser described.

"I've always been a fan of Darwin," she said. "I was also amazed by the amount of work he did. He wrote extensive works: on worms, on beetles, on flowers, on all different species." The collected vintage items were then used as inspiration or the material for the final looks. In many ways, her work mimics ideas of evolution as each piece changes from its original form: a skirt becomes a dress, a shirt becomes a skirt. A mix of abstractions, the designs are enigmatic and visually lush.

"When I'm reading his journals," Weiser began, "he's talking about these luscious, beautiful, tropical worlds. I wanted to give the idea of his trip to the Galapagos Islands and seeing these flowers and trees and green." She continued, "That's variation. Color is variation. That's the whole concept of natural selection."

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In addition to her reconstruction of vintage clothing, Weiser also created new prints that incorporate illustrations taken from Darwin's books and journals. Unlike her reconstructions, color is limited in these prints, instead using the exact light beige of the pages of his works.

In addition to the illustrations, she also incorporated tiny religious symbols to complete the patterns, again highlighting the play of the religious and the scientific. "I have a love affair with symbol. We understand symbol on a subconscious level," she said.

From an outsider's perspective, Weiser is the antithesis of the stereotype of the Chicago designer. When one thinks of conceptually-driven fashion, one thinks of New York or London. One does not think of Chicago. Many of the designers within this city point out the necessity to create with the Chicago consumer in mind. Chicago is a city of comfort, of practicality and of classics.

But it is perhaps her position as a designer in Chicago rather than as just a "Chicago designer" that separates Weiser from many of her peers. Basing her work in the city gives her the opportunity to stay idea-focused. There is seemingly no idea too large or too complex. For artists, Chicago is an easy city for living and working, providing freedoms of space and a separation from the drive of the market to their vision. For Weiser, whose collections are driven less by seasons and more by artistic inspiration, this proves to be a welcome element to her design process.

--
"On the Origin of Species" premieres Saturday, November 3 at 8pm in Heaven Gallery (1550 North Milwaukee, 2nd floor). $15 suggested donation.

 
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Herman Cummings / November 2, 2012 6:19 PM

If pastors, priests. rabbis, and "so called" Christians would stop their false (old Earth) and foolish (young Earth) teachings, and start promoting the truth of Genesis (Observations of Moses), then there would hardly be any room for the ridiculous teaching of evolution.

Collectively, Bible believers are so "blind", that their approach to Genesis is a joke. Instead of seeking the truth, they continue to support the current lies and foolishness of Creationism. Genesis does not have any "Creation accounts". When you keep telling a person that their car is running out of gas, and they refuse to look at the fuel gauge and go to the gas station, you begin to wonder how "dumb" they are.

Perhaps they are just like the Jews, who value tradition over the truth of scripture.

Herman Cummings
ephraim7@aol.com

Britt Julious / November 3, 2012 1:37 AM

But did you like the article, Herman?

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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