Fashion statement

Style The Arts

September 29, 2023

It’s the ultimate upcycling: Fourteen local designers take retired vinyl billboards depicting original artwork and turn them into jaw-dropping fashions.

by Sharon Smith

As models took to the runway at The ArtPop Upcycled Fashion Show last month in South End, the parade of vibrant, head-turning outfits drew constant waves of applause from the pumped-up crowd. Among the designs: a heavily pleated, floral-inspired ball gown; a bright blue and yellow frock with matching purse and hat; and a dark two-piece ensemble with an edgy mermaid skirt and ruffled asymmetrical top. 

The before-and-after effect is dramatic. Each artist works with billboard vinyl printed with artwork from ArtPop Street Gallery’s Cities Program, which showcases the work of local artists on billboards and digital displays all over Charlotte. Edelweiss Vogel turned her own billboard into an on-point pink and white ensemble — an A-line dress with butterfly sleeves and salakot, or hat — highlighting her Filipino heritage.

A modern, edgy mermaid gown by designer Que Blankenship created with billboard vinyl featuring artwork by Melissa Stutts,

Repurposing the billboards in this unconventional way aligns with the nonprofit’s upcycling initiative — and makes for a thrilling night. “The energy was palpable. People were blown away,” says ArtPop founder Wendy Hickey. “It’s not easy material to work with, so the details these designers put into these pieces is incredible. They could be at The Met.”

Tickets sell out each year, which helps ArtPop further its core missions — to make art engaging and accessible while supporting those who make it. A perfect fit.  SP

Models on the runway of the ArtPop UpCycled Fashon Show in Charlotte.

Photographs by Da Nam, courtesy ArtPop Street Gallery

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