In fashion, one day you’re in, and the next day you’re out. In the case of Fashion Machine, the Royal B.C. Museum’s March 28–29 design event, you’re either in, or you’re a chicken.
In collaboration with Theatre SKAM, The Makehouse’s Fashion Machine keeps Victoria’s youngest designers on their toes. The 9–13-year-olds design in small teams, reworking the audience’s outfits to match their passions, personality, and aesthetic.
The “chicken” portion of the audience (marked by a sticker on entry) get to watch the creative process — an approximate hour to hem skirts, stitch new fabrics together, and launch a fashion show to wrap up the evening.
Sophia Burbee and Amélie MacDonald, both 11, were two of the participating designers at the event. They began their journey as designers at The Makehouse’s summer design camp, and were thrilled to participate in the Fashion Machine’s creative process.
“You get to take a complete stranger’s clothes and then you can rip them apart,” Burbee explained. “You can tear them apart, you can do whatever you want with them. It’s a really fun experience.”
“It’s a chance to be creative — going through materials and seeing how it’s a good fit,” MacDonald said.
The designing duo admit the Project Runway-esque process can be difficult to facilitate in teams, but is ultimately rewarding. “You have to make sure the whole team is okay with what you’re doing,” MacDonald said. “If we all go off and create different pieces that’s for one outfit, it’s just going to look horrible.”
The final products range from silly re-inventions of menswear (sometimes with added lace, Burbee’s favourite textile), to patchwork depending on textiles they can find within the hour. Everything happens in the moment, but for the girls, one thing is certain: glitter is off limits.
“I like most textiles and fabrics, except for the glittery one — I find that hard to cut, with a bunch of sprinkles coming off it. It gets everywhere,” MacDonald said, with Burbee at her side, agreeing to glitter’s high-maintenance qualities.
“You figure out solutions — you have to do that a lot when you’re under a time limit,” she said.
Chris O’Connor, Schools & Family Learning Team Lead at the Royal B.C. Museum, took part in Fashion Machine’s last production before it landed in the museum’s corridors.
“It’s a very cool event in that it pulls back the curtain of creative process,” he said. “What I really like about it is that it gives those young designers an opportunity to really have a voice, work, and learn together.”
O’Connor believes fashion is worth exploring through both a creative and artistic eye.
“It makes a lot to sense to think of it within an art context. I think the line between functionality of why we wear clothes and what clothes we wear, and a mode for self-expression, is a finer line than we actually acknowledge,” he said.
Fashion Machine has received overwhelmingly positive responses in Victoria and beyond — the event is scheduled to appear in Austin, Texas, in early April.