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Redding Fashion studio to highlight ‘growing’ garments

September 27, 2018

A new kind of fashion is coming to the region and the designer hopes it turns the industry on its head.

Parsons School of Design graduate student Jacob Olmedo will open a studio at 101 Peaceable St. in the home of Redding resident Jane Philbrick. Seeking to change what he calls the “unsustainability” of today’s textile and fashion industry, Olmedo’s clothes are made from biodegradable fabrics and produced locally.

“Growing” or “living” garments, from which wheatgrass or microgreens sprout, will be a focus of his work in the Redding studio. He also has a line designed to attract attention to the plight of honey bees and other pollinators.

“I think the future of fashion is a whole new textile — something we haven’t experienced yet,” he said. “I think people should be ready for it. It’s definitely a leap from where we are now, but if people come to the studio and try them and wear them they will be more open to it.”

Jacob Olmedo Studio will launch on Saturday and will be open to the public, Philbrick said. Olmedo lives in Brooklyn as he does graduate work at Parsons. He received his bachelor of fine arts degree from Parsons in 2017. The Redding space will be his first studio and he will be there Wednesdays and Saturdays.

He is hoping to find a few local volunteers to help with stitching and pattern making, as well as encourage “community production.” Clothing and fashion, he said, is an unsustainable industry due to its ecological and social abuses.

The transportation alone involved with the industry is not sustainable, he said, as the textiles are usually made in one country, shipped to another country to be made into clothing and then shipped around the world to consumers.

“We keep having the conversation about sustainability, but no one is doing anything about it. Let’s start now — that’s what I’m saying. What are we going to do next that is better than the old way?” he said. “As someone who is young, it’s something we have to ask: How can we do this better? Right now, the fashion industry is so toxic we have to do something better.”

Philbrick hopes Jacob Olmedo Studio is a stepping stone to something much larger in Redding. She envisions the long-vacant Gilbert & Bennett wire mill site as an arts dwelling of sorts whereby different generations of artists and designers will come together in live/work studios. She said that purpose meshes with Redding’s “pioneering history and culture.”

Philbrick is a member of TILLgeorgetown, a group that focuses on community-based brownfield remediation.

Philbrick discovered Olmedo while she walked through the Parsons School of Design graduate exhibits last year. She liked the “social purpose and ecologically progression” of his pieces. While she admits the growing garments will appear odd to many people, she said bold steps are what drives change.

“That’s what innovation looks like. Innovation is strange,” she said. “Then people start to see the meaning. It informs. (Olmeda’s work) is a cultural platform to bring attention to the impact of the industry and having the ability to do something about it.”

Olmedo’s fashions are made from 100 percent biodegradable materials, such as cotton twill treated with beeswax, wood pulp and other textiles bound by tree sap. His growing garments include a variety of jackets. He is working on expanding the concept to shirts and pants.

Olmedo’s fashions may be seen at www.jacobolmedo.com.

The growing pieces are not washable, but may be returned to Olmedo for a new lining. When the vegetation turns brown, Olmedo said, it may be pulled out and the jacket reseeded.

He describes the line as “experimental fashion” and combines his knowledge of clothing and hydroponics. Olmeda said he has worn growing pieces throughout New York City.

“People took a second glance, but they are curious and want to know more,” he said. “It’s thinking about things in a different way.”

The writer may be reached at cbosak@hearstmediact.com; 203-731-3338

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