Eclectic Fashions at Wildflowers Too Designer Showcase

By Sandra Weyant | Aug 28, 2019
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Barnegat Light — The sixth annual Art-to-Wear designer showcase was held this past Thursday evening at Wildflowers Too in Barnegat Light, and the garments and accessories were breathtaking, unlike anything seen before.

The event highlighted wearable works of art from fashion designers from all over the world, including Japanese designer Mieko Mintz, Polish designer Teresa Maria Widuch, Samuel Dong, Israeli designer Alembika, Scandinavian designer Bitte Kai Rand, and Amsterdam designer Uli.

Cricket Luker, owner of the gallery, is always on a quest to discover hidden-gem artists to bring into the spotlight. It is her pride and joy to deliver fashion and art to the Island to inspire others. At the end of every summer, the designer showcase serves to debut some of the newest fall looks from Luker’s favorite designers.

Mieko Mintz’s jackets are crafted from vintage fabrics, Kantha material and recycled sari fabrics from her family kimono collection. One of the most interesting aspects of her clothing, and another reason her designs are extra appealing, is the fact that each jacket is fully reversible and contains an entirely different pattern on the inside. You can get twice the wear out of one garment. Mintz’s pieces are bold, bright and sure to make a statement.

“I always admire Mieko’s jackets. She changes her style a little bit each year. This year, she eliminated a lot of pattern. She is going with a more sophisticated, subtle pattern, and I can really understand the transition,” Luker said. “You have to keep doing something different to challenge yourself.”

As a former printmaker and art teacher, Luker has an eye for style and an appreciation for the creative process.

“Teresa Maria Widuch’s work is very different than Mieko’s. Where Mieko uses pattern and color and texture, Widuch’s jackets are more constructed and sculptural. She does solid colors in a boiled wool or ultra-suede from Japan,” she said.

Aside from Mintz’s and Widuch’s jackets, Luker included several ready-to-wear pieces from Aris and Carré Noir, which featured large images, such as bold florals, printed on suede and snakeskin fabrics. This year, embroidery and free stitch designs are popular, as well. Luker displayed a black wool coat with a relaxed shape and intricate circle quilted stitch patterns.

“This look is very artsy. I had a friend who was a quilter, and she did a lot of designs like this. I gravitate toward this type of stitching; it really speaks to me,” Luker said.

In late September, she will be hosting a runway fashion show called Artful Noir, a benefit for the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences, in which these designs will be featured again.

One notable artist from the showcase is Heydori, an Israeli designer who is based in Washington, D.C.

“She is a little bit out there, a little bit funkier, but I am in love with what she is doing,” Luker said. “It’s got a lot of flair to it.”

For Artful Noir, Luker is developing a mesh collection, and Heydori’s mesh sleeveless dress with cutouts and long-sleeved mesh dress will both be included. Several different mesh coats, plus one from designer Samuel Dong, will be revealed on the runway, as well. Also for sale at the designer showcase was a sleeveless mesh zip-up dress from a Brooklyn-based clothing designer. The dress featured a mesh overlay and heavier fabric underneath, which is ideal for fall weather. Luker recommends adding a turtleneck sweater underneath to complete the look.

“Not a lot of artists are working in these alternative materials, as I like to call them, but I’ll be showing them because they are simply wonderful and have been well-received so far,” Luker said.

Dong, a designer Luker has carried in her store for years, created some new dresses, coats and accessories for fall. Large statement collars are typical of his work. Dong also likes to incorporate sculptural wire into his designs to experiment with the shape.

“He is certainly one of my favorites as he is a little quirky, too. We have a navy balloon dress silhouette with a stand-up collar, and I like to use it for mother-of-the-bride inspiration,” she said.

An outfit is not fully complete without the perfect accessories. One of Dong’s newest works is a snap-front scarf with an all-over pleated bow design that you can layer on top of a dress or shirt.

“You can literally wear this with jeans or a T-shirt or a pair of heels, and it just makes a perfect outfit to go out for a cocktail. It’s brilliant – the texture and simplicity of it is just gorgeous,” Luker said. “If you take interesting accessories to travel with, you can pair them with any basic. I am all about playing with funky accessories.”

As for some more finishing touches, Mintz’s colorful necklaces, made from the leftover scraps of material from her jackets, were available for purchase.

The most impressive items of the night were the rubber necklaces by Uli. These fully reversible pieces are made from medical rubber with printed designs, multiple layers of texture and patterns, to mimic the look of metal chains or strands of pearls.

“It’s the next level of rubber jewelry. These are all beautiful, and if people travel, they don’t have to take their gold with them. This really dresses up an outfit and reads like a statement piece of jewelry,” Luker said.

For the showcase, she introduced the first collection of rubber necklaces in neutral colors, golds and silvers, but for Artful Noir, there will be a trunk show after the fashion show featuring the brand-new colored collection.

“I am always on a mission trying to find these wonderful artists and pieces to make it fun and interesting for everyone and myself,” Luker said.

Along with scouring the globe for the latest and greatest fashions, she enjoys being an active member of the community and creating relationships with like-minded, artsy individuals. Over this past winter, she connected with the Garden Club of Long Beach Island to further develop the concept of Artful Noir. One workshop she did with the women of the club involved decorating a pair of shoes, which were on display at the designer showcase.

“I like to network and bring in different things, and the garden club is a creative group of women. The shoes we made are almost like collages. Each person did a different theme. My shoe is called ‘A Walk in the Woods.’ I covered it with handmade paper and started to build mosses and twigs and all-natural materials onto this shoe. It’s really fun to see what people created,” Luker said. “The garden club will be a part of the Artful Noir presentation, and the shoes will be included in the silent auction.”

The LBIF will have a projection screen set up during the show as a backdrop of fine art that corresponds with each of the outfits.

“I’m taking artwork from our gallery artists, projecting it, and bringing out collections of clothing that in some way complement the artwork. It’s a really new concept, and I started it last year at a different fashion show, but I want to build on it.

“The LBIF is the perfect partnership because they are all about art and art appreciation and developing artists, and so am I,” Luker said. “After all of my years being a printmaker, someone who does these showcases and then segueing into being a retailer of clothing, this feels like my next step to blend art and art-to-wear in some kind of educational event to discuss new artists and what makes them special. I’ve learned so much, and this is what I have to give back at this point in my life.”

Artful Noir will be held at the LBIF on Sept. 21 from 3 to 5 p.m. The event will feature a variety of Art-to-Wear clothing, jewelry and handbags from artisan designers. Wine and hors d’oeuvres will be served, and guests can participate in a silent auction. Tickets are $100 and will be sold through the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences.

Visit Wildflowers Too in Barnegat Light to check out one-of-a-kind fashions to cherish forever.

— Sandra Weyant

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