Loudoun artists create farm-grown fashion

A Purcellville “agricouture” exhibit on display from Oct. 4-29 weaves in local farm life.

fashion sketch
Photo courtesy of Alta Jones

“Make it work.” Overused? Yes. Still relevant? Absolutely.

Loudoun County artists may be uttering that mantra from Project Runway’s beloved Tim Gunn as they prepare for this month’s Farm to Fashion show at Franklin Park Arts Center in Purcellville.

The “agricouture” exhibit—co-sponsored by the Friends of Franklin Park Arts Center, the Loudoun Arts Council and Loudoun County Economic Development—runs Oct. 4-29 at the arts center. In a show closely resembling the Lifetime program’s unconventional materials challenge (minus the runway), participants will design garments and accessories using farm materials such as machine parts, fruit crates and lavender.

farm fashion
Photo courtesy of Alta Jones

“Agriculture is definitely an important part of the rural economy in Loudoun County still. It used to be the driving force in Loudoun many years ago,” says Elizabeth Bracey, manager of the arts center, which was built on the site of a former dairy farm.

The county is home to roughly 1,400 farms, the majority of which are not commercial properties, says Melanie Scoggins, rural retention and marketing manager for Loudoun County Economic Development. Scoggins secured materials from 11 local farms and wineries for the artists to use.

farm fashion
Photo courtesy of Alta Jones

For her entry, Hillsboro bed-and-breakfast proprietor Alta Jones gathered some area friends, including a multimedia artist with White House credits, Laney Oxman. Their piece, Savory Devine, is a dress form with a sculpted head sporting a strapless mermaid-style gown with a bustle and an accessory hewn from dried chicken parts.

Painter and graphic designer Penny Hauffe has been involved with Franklin Park Arts Center since its inception and jumped at the chance to design for the agricouture show. Her felted hat incorporates karakul sheep’s wool from Bluemont’s Check Mate Farm and is a sort of wearable pond. “It’s just a cheap excuse to make frogs,” Hauffe says.

Photo courtesy of Penny Hauffe

Jill Evans-Kavaldjian, president of the Loudoun Arts Council and chair of the Rural Economic Development Council Branding Group, says the agricouture show concept took about two years to fully develop. “One of the amazing things about being on the Rural Economic Development Council is learning,” says Evans-Kavaldjian, who also works at Potomac Vegetable Farm. “Every time I go to a meeting, I learn about something going on in the county that I had no idea about, and I want to bring that educational component to everyone in the county.”

Farm to Fashion is free for all eventgoers, including the Oct. 28 reception and awards ceremony that features live music and local food, beer and wine. As a publicly funded branch of Loudoun County Parks, Recreation and Community Services, Franklin Park Arts Center has the opportunity to take risks and to promote risk-taking among its artists, Bracey says.

“It’s wonderful for artists to have a challenge that’s out of the box. It kind of gets them out of their comfort zone a little bit and gets them thinking in a different way.”

(October 2017)