Monday, November 1, 2004

plants as fashion

A Big Island clothing artist
turns invasive shrubbery into
items you can actually wear

KAILUA-KONA » Anna Peach grew tired of hearing about how invasive species were taking over and how her work was not Hawaiian enough.

So the Big Island clothing artist decided to give invasive species a boost by creating fashion out of palm fibers, coral tree, Job's tears, Dutchman's pipe and other non-native plants that have taken root in the islands.

"What is so ironic is these plants were brought here for their decorative quality," she said, "but they quickly become overgrown."

Peach, 34, has been creating seed-studded corsets, lau hala girdles and haole koa dresses in her Honokaa art shop, the Golden Egret Studio. Her work has received attention beyond Hawaii and been featured in shows and fiber magazines.

Her work, she said, amounts to a "parody of fashions" because she turned to invasive species to create fashion with a more native look.

"I wanted to bring to the surface how we deal with society and how we define belonging," Peach said.

"This project has changed how I view the land, and now I can mark the seasons," she said. "It's helped me understand the nuances of time. Everything has its time here."

Although Peach views her work as clothing art, she said some of the people want the pieces to be wearable.

But that presents an environmental problem.

When something is worn around town, seeds are likely to fall off, and that could contribute to spreading an unwanted species.

For that reason, Peach said, she does not use any plant that is banned or considered highly invasive.

Not all of her work is made of plants. One of her recent pieces, still under construction, consists of more than 600 doilies from around the world sewn together.

Some viewers see a wedding dress or a fishing net. Children see a fort.

The artist's explanation is more complex.

"I envision the piece as a type of canopy, suspended from a ceiling, where people can walk underneath and have the light filter through the holes in the stitching, making patterns on their arms," Peach said.

"I wanted to conjure up something that in some ways was fit for a queen but, at the same time, could have been made by your next-door neighbor," she said.



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