We all participate in fashion—whether it takes us five minutes to throw on a t-shirt or an hour to put together an outfit that reflects our mood, our personality and the season. But the art of fashion isn’t just in selecting what you wear and exuding the confidence to pull it off. There is an art to creating the physical garments themselves. And that is where the creative materials industry comes in: dyeing, stitching, painting, felting, embossing. Fashion, fine art and craft may be separated into neat little categories on paper, but when it comes to real life applications there are plenty of intersections.
Much of the staff at Wet Paint is comprised of working artists who create at these points of intersection. While we were intrigued when we caught wind of a Wet Paint’s Fashion Week, in parallel to Fashion Week MN, we were not surprised.
Fashion Week is typically an event in the fashion industry where designers display their latest collections on the runway, making an impression on buyers, the media and the general public. Wet Paint saw Fashion Week MN as an opportunity to showcase products and techniques customers may not be familiar with, in the form of DIY wearable art worn with pride and spunk. Visuals in the art supply world are typically stylized images of pens, pencils and paints; the portraits produced by Wet Paint staffer and photographer Jorden Priebe Cole are a refreshing reminder that the personalities of the people using creative materials can draw customers into your store as well!
Preparation for the Wet Paint fashion week began well in advance. Social media posts leading up to and throughout the week, along with a culminating blog post, making important connections with customers, new and returning alike. Art Dog met with Marketing Manager Kristina Fjellman, and Social Media Manager Chris Nolt to discover how they lay the foundation for such a unique initiative and how Fashion Week impacted business.
Fashion Week was clearly fabulous and fun! There was clearly a lot of staff involvement, in both the making and the modeling. What got everyone so engaged?
Kristina: The staff likes to show the stuff that they’ve been doing… and they like to get photographed, especially if it’s done well. I had prepped them months in advance. We already have people making earrings and dying shirts anyways, and they wanted to share that with our community.
Chris: It’s not generally hard to get people stoked—this was such an accessible idea, and we are all… a little flamboyant. And the people who are more reserved, they made something rather than modeling. It wasn’t terribly hard to get people excited about an idea that was so fun.
What makes working together so fun?
Chris: The turnaround here is so low. Our team…we are friends, and we don’t all necessarily hang out, but we are all family. It’s easy for us to coexist because we are all of the same frame of mind. Most people stay here for 2-3 years at the low end, depending on the person’s personal circumstances. I’ve been here for 7 years.
Kristina: I’ve been here for 16 years!
Do you think that’s because you are all artists?
Chris: Totally, I think that helps. We are all used to living non-traditional lives. Getting along so well comes from being open-minded. We…love each other. I would use the word love, yeah! <They both laugh>
How did you both prep for this, as the point people?
K: I pitched it to our team at the end of February. I came up with the plan, and the team was like yeah, go for it. I do a lot of dyeing, upcycling of clothes and customized shoes for my own wardrobe—and we have quite a few folks on staff who also make jewelry and other wearables, which made it fairly easy to pull together. I did encourage staff to create something for the photo shoot, so a couple of people made things just for the project. I also made a couple of new items for this outside of work, so there was some extra investment there. The vast majority, however, were personal projects that were made prior to this, and then we compiled what we had that day for styling.
C: We’re all artists on staff. We are all making stuff or have made stuff. A lot of us make wearables, because it’s fun! Someone can wear it, it’s functional fine art. We’ve all dipped our fingers and toes in that kind of medium before… jewelry, clothing, various accessorizing using the art supplies that we spend so much of our time around. Kristina and Anna on staff curated most of the stuff that was brought in, putting together the outfits, determining who was going to wear what.
Why was curating so crucial?
K: I let people know when I laid out the plan for the team in the months beforehand that Anna and I would curate, I don’t think anybody argued because Anna is like… super stylish <laughs>. We came up with some amazing combinations because we had so much to work with.
C: I know I definitely popped my head in when they were sorting everything and said, “I would really love to wear that!” They were working in an active space in our office, people were able to walk through and give input, but everyone was happy to have Kristina and Ana in control. Ego didn’t really play into it.
Who took the photos?
Our buyer Jorden Priebe Cole went to school for photography and has a small photo business called In the Moment Studios; she set up her photo background and a nice camera and lights. She also does some work for our holiday catalogue.
What was the response from customers?
K: The response was great; we posted on the blog and on Instagram and Facebook beforehand and throughout the week; we had really engaging comments.
C: We had two posts a day that were fashion related for a week, with a very consistent amount of likes, comments and shares that we don’t usually see. People interact with us, but it’s very often the same people every time. But during Fashion Week more people were seeing the content, reacting to it, sharing it on their pages, etc. Between 4-15 comments on each one, 75-100 likes on each one, and on top of that the shares coming from Facebook, which pushed it out further.
I don’t see many stores posting about fashion or wearable art. I think you reached an entirely new group of people with this. Did it impact sales?
K: With Angelus, yes. And we did get a lot of comments asking us to do a dye class. That is in the works for this summer, so we can get some of the basics.
C: It’s all about intention. There are so many materials that you can use for a variety of different things, and if you think outside of the box… it’s kind of like the Cosplay community, they create things with the intention of turning things into something else. You look at a tube of paint, it’s only a tube of paint for canvas. That limits its potential. We spend hours and hours with these supplies, so we get excited about using these materials in special ways. We want to inspire our customers to use them in special ways. It’s incredibly inspiring.
K: I did a lot of that stuff for Fashion Week because I enjoy doing it, and to translate that with coworkers is like, oh wait, you make earrings, let’s pair that with the top that Kate dyed. Oh, we both do this, let’s do this more, and do a fashion shoot, which is just fun anyway.
Featured Wearable Art
Wet Paint’s Fashion Week featured a wide array of wearable art. Here are the creative materials their team used to make the photoshoot a reality:
- Tie-dye tops and a hand-crocheted shawl dyed with Jacquard Procion MX Dye
- Mono-printed earrings made with Amsterdam acrylic paint
- Laser-cut wood pendants, as well as wood pin painted with Montana Gold spray paint
- Various jewelry made with Sculpey Polymer Clay, Arches 300lb Watercolor paper, Grafix Shrink-Art Film, POSCA Paint Markers, Golden Artist Colors Heavy Body Acrylic Paint and Mod Podge Dimensional Magic
- Jumpsuit and jeans dyed using Jacquard iDye
- Hand-dyed scarves and tops painted with Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow Fabric Paint
- A suit dressed up with Montana Gold spray paint
- T-shirts created with Jacquard Color Remover
- A belt (as a bracelet), custom painted boots, leather jacket and sneakers using Angelus Brand Leather Paint, touched up with Jacquard Pinata Alcohol Ink
- Poncho top painted with Jacquard Neopaque Fabric Paint
- A dress and a top dyed using Jacquard’s Indigo Dye Kit
- A dress made from Japanese Kinwashi paper
- Crepe paper sunflowers made by paper florist, Anna Gaseitsiwe
The beauty of an out of the box project that staff and customers are genuinely excited about is the project is finished, it’s not actually over. Propelled by the positive response to Fashion Week, Wet Paint scheduled a total of three dye-related events this summer. Last month their team coordinated with their account manager Cassie for a Shibori workshop, which had debuted as a Rough Draft Demo on Art Dog. A Dye & Dyenaflow demo was a huge hit with attendees last week. They had twenty people attend and sold a great amount of product for a free event. “People left thanking us for such a fun night, which always makes it worth it,” Kristina reported. “We’ve also got a Cochineal demo coming up in August!”
What kind of out of-the-box events or activities might suit your store and your artistic community and inspire popular classes or events? Keep us posted and feel free to reach out with comments or questions.