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L.A. Designer,Hanna Hartnell, Isn't Afraid to Make Fashion Art

Updated on April 30, 2014

Hollywood Splendor In Minutes

This dress was created by designer Hanna Hartnell at the TEDX art event "Fabric As a Medium For Beauty" at the "Electric Lodge Art Space" in Venice, California on October 22.
This dress was created by designer Hanna Hartnell at the TEDX art event "Fabric As a Medium For Beauty" at the "Electric Lodge Art Space" in Venice, California on October 22. | Source
This dress was created by designer Hanna Hartnell at the TEDX art event "Fabric As a Medium for Beauty".
This dress was created by designer Hanna Hartnell at the TEDX art event "Fabric As a Medium for Beauty". | Source
This dress was created by designer Hanna Hartnell at the TEDX art event "Fabric As a Medium for Beauty".
This dress was created by designer Hanna Hartnell at the TEDX art event "Fabric As a Medium for Beauty". | Source

Fabric Makes Fashion Art

Long before I became a clotheshorse and Fashion Merchandising major at CSULA I loved fabric.. When I was younger I had a red and white polka dotted dress that had a row of white tulips appliqued around the hem. It was definitely one of my favorites and gave me a lifelong love for the color red, polka dots and floral prints. I've always regretted not saving it and vowed that I'd definitely hang onto my next favorite dress. I finally got my chance in 1976 when my mother bought the dress I graduated from Orville Wright Junior High in at Fox Hills Mall. Floor-length and ultra-girly it has an all-over light green pastoral print with a tie-back sash belt that still makes me smile whenever I look at it.I hadn't really contemplated my relationship with fabric lately, and had no reason to, until I went to the "TEDxLA Miracle Mile events" Fabric As a Medium For Beauty" (http://www.ted.com/tedx/events/3644) at the "Electric Lodge" in Venice, California on October 22.

Hanna Hartnell's Dress Demonstration:

The most amazing demonstration to me was Hanna Hartnell's 18 minute dress design. When I walked into the reception area, where she was whirling around like a magical creature with a pair of shears in one hand and a swath of silk fabric and straight pins in the other, I got so caught up in her presentation I felt like I was on an episode of "Project Runway." Her inspiration-three paintings she brought by artists Billy Al Bengston and Ed Moses-made the experience even more sublime because I was able to see how a fashion designer directly creates from something that touches them.

"My intention was to take two-dimensional paintings and move the expression into three-dimensions," she wrote me via email.

Balenciaga meets Dior:

Dramatic, with a slight Spanish Flamenco dancer flair, her first dress was a cross between a Cristobal Balenciaga coat and a Christian Dior dress. Based on the red and black abstract painting she used the way she intertwined black and red silk fabric down the back and then to the front of the full-length skirt was breath-taking. As I watched her create this gown I was also reminded of Edith Wharton's book "Age of Innocence."

"Would you rather draw first or drape when you design a garment?," I asked her. "I'd rather drape first," she answered.

I mentioned her comment to the woman standing next to me and she said, "That's right, draping first is the best way, because the fabric talks to you."

Starlet Pizazz:

Going from Edwardian melodrama to 1930s Hollywood her next attempt was a peach and off-white sheath Jean Harlow would've looked perfect in. It was inspired by the "blush and ivory heart Daisy" painting she brought and while the gown was shockingly simple both the painting and the dress made me think of Georgia O'Keeffe another modern artist who rendered flowers with as spare a hand.

The last dress was an embodiment of an Impressionist Monet. It was so lush you could almost feel its softness from a distance as Hartnell formed frothy pink layers into a bustle down the back then arranged a multicolored floral floor-length sheath in the front.

"You don't see many dresses made like that," I said to the woman next to me. "No, that's because you need two different types of fabric to do it and it's very difficult."

Textile Artist, Sybil Rubotom, Composer, Mark Carlson, and Educator, Howard J. Brown:

Throughout the other demonstrations and talks by textile artist Sybil Rubottom, composer Mark Carlson, Howard J. Brown, educator, and others, in the main auditorium, my mind kept going back to what I'd just seen in the reception area. I felt changed and enlightened by someone who gave themselves the challenge to "drape as though no one is watching." Now I finally know, once and for all, that fashion is art too!

For more information about TEDx LA Miracle Mile events visit TED.com/TEDx/Tedx (http://www.tedxaltavistala.com) and for more information about Hanna Hartnell either visit her website at www.hannahartnell.com or call her showroom at 310-393-6587. If you want to visit her at her showroom she's located at 1515 Fourth Street, Santa Monica, CA. 90401.

Fashion Can Be Artistic Too

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