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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, August 31, 2000

Art courtesy Linda Gibson
Linda and Shirley Gibson hope to lure workshop
participants away from their familiar jeans
and T-shirts .

Fashion as art

By Nadine Kam

Cross Linda Gibson's path, and you will be regarded, not as any old human being, but as a breathtaking, movable sculpture. How dare you then, turn your lovely organic form into a T-shirt hanger?

Gibson, who as a little girl growing up in Virginia enjoyed the diversity of culture and costumes of other countries, grew up to discover a reality much more mundane.

"Everybody's wearing T-shirts and jeans. Everybody's westernized. It's something that I've thought about for a long time, but it really stuck when I came to Hawaii six months ago. In a place so beautiful, we could be wearing colorful, flowing things, but instead I see a lot of T-shirts on the street.

"I don't care what the name on the label is, but a T-shirt is a T-shirt and a sweatshirt is a sweatshirt, whether you turn it forward or backward."


Bullet What: Open studio exhibition featuring garments and textiles by Linda and Shirley Gibson
Bullet Date: 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow
Bullet Place: Academy Art Center at Linekona, 1111 Victoria St.
Bullet Admission: Free
Bullet Call: 532-8741
Bullet Workshop: Four-day session runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sept. 9, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 10. The cost, including materials, is $130. Call number above to register.

Not that there's anything wrong with paying The Gap or Tommy Hilfiger to advertise their names across your chest while you pay for the privilege of doing just that, but Gibson, a visual artist and arts educator, and her sister Shirley, a textile artist and clothing designer, believe enough is enough and that they have a better alternative.

The sisters say clothing should be an extension of an individual's personality, and will show off some possibilities during an open studio exhibition tomorrow at the Academy Art Center at Linekona, followed by a four-session wearable art workshop beginning Saturday.

"I'm a child of the '60s," Linda Gibson said. "We'd do things like paint on our jeans. The whole goal was to look different. We should be different like flowers are different.

"We all have a culture to draw on, that we seem to have forgotten, and I don't like that we've left it alone.

"I went through the Civil Rights movement, the Black Pride movement, where I've looked at my heritage and Africa as a source of influence. I found so much that was inspiring, not only in the culture, but the clothes, the fabric, the colors and prints."

Gibson had grown up sewing, able to copy just about any design offered in stores, but she started experimenting further with textures, applique, fringing and other forms of embellishment.

Although the sisters have presented several art workshops in Virginia and Seattle, Wa., where they last resided, this will mark their first foray into hosting a wearable art workshop.

In the workshop, participants will create a surface design inspired by Kuba cloth of Zaire, they stitch the cotton fabric by hand into a simple tunic. Materials will be provided.

Gibson is certain participants will want to wear their finished garments. "We feel that anytime you touch something, you're putting yourself into it. It becomes a part of you because you cared about it.

"It takes a certain kind of person who wants to come to this type of workshop in the first place, one that has a sense of adventure.

"If you're going to come at all, you're going to have courage and individuality. This is for people who are ready for a change and don't care if anyone else doesn't understand it."

The workshop is an extension of the sisters' business HOPE, Harvest Our People's Energy. Through workshops, retreats and forums, their goal is to foster mental health and well-being through creative expression. During the wearable art workshop, "We stress the process of creativity," Linda said.

"We play nice music. We don't want anybody to feel stressed. We want you to be calm and enjoy the process."

There are signs that in these high-tech, less personal times, fashion is becoming more tactile to compensate for a loss of individuality.

The evidence is in the shopping malls. Beaded jewelry is in. So are textured materials such as snakeskin and crocodile leather. A few seasons ago, Gucci designer Tom Ford reintroduced embellished jeans and Anna Sui has embraced patchwork leather.

All this is great, Gibson said, but she adds that it still takes a big-name designer to tell us what's acceptable.

"We're always being told what to wear, what's hot. No one wants to be the first to try something or to be different.

"I don't like waiting for designers to tell me what can be done. I'm dedicated to being creative and one of a kind, instead of being one of the masses."

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