Couture at the intersections of art, fashion and music
By Josh Miller
Photos by Kathryn Harrington and Andrea Hutchinson
I can still remember the very first KMAC Couture in 2013, with the inside of the KMAC Museum converted to a runway for wearable art featuring beautiful and dramatic pieces. After its first sold-out year, the event moved outside the museum into a large white tent with an orange runway covering Main Street. What did they do when COVID-19 impacted their ability to gather in person in 2020? They decided to create a KMAC Couture film highlighting the wearable art and high-concept fashion designs. This year, the film is being produced by KMAC Museum, Audi of Louisville, Blue Grass MOTORSPORT, Brown-Forman and Hermitage Farm.
In 2021, they upped the ante, encouraging designers to “Create a look to be worn at the intersections of art, fashion and music… [which] often accompany one another amid cultural movements,” said KMAC Museum Curatorial Director Joey Yates in his curatorial statement for KMAC Couture: Beauty and the Beat.
An open call was issued for designers and filmmakers, with applicants ranging from young burgeoning designers to artists who have participated in KMAC Couture in years past. KMAC Couture mentors were also available to support the designers throughout the process. 17-year-old Abby Fadel was inspired by Radiohead’s song “Creep” and worked with mentor Jasmine Weatherby. “It is the only song that truly makes me cry, which is exactly why I chose it,” Fadel said. “I used trash bags, neon green spandex, zippers and polyfill to form this design.”
Designer Xuena Pu, who was born and grew up in a traditional craftsman family in Kaifeng, China, and has a BFA in Fashion Design from Columbus College of Art and Design, described herself as a “Sustainable fashion designer with a strong mission to preserve my cultural heritage in textile art. I hope to share these traditional ancient techniques with the next generation,” Pu said.
Production Coordinator and Filmmaker Ryan Daly described KMAC Couture as, “A massive art project for the city.” Daly worked closely with Joey Yates and the KMAC team, coordinating with over 35 artists, from designers to filmmakers and musicians with a connection to the region. “The quality and level of artistry in and around Louisville is amazing,” Daly said.
“When I saw the notice that they were seeking local filmmakers to participate, I recognized this as a potential opportunity to create new work locally in concert with other members of the Louisville creative community,” shared first-time participant and Filmmaker Aron Kantor.
Locations for the five video shoots each featuring at least five designers ranged from Audi of Louisville – A Blue Grass MOTORSPORT Dealership to Hermitage Farm to Old Forester Distillery. Filmmaker Ben Newkirk of Uproar Films described the inspiration for his film concept, “As Lizzo would say, ‘Fresh photos with the bomb lighting.’ I location scouted Blue Grass a couple of times to see where the sun is in relation to the store and where I wanted to put the runway. That is important because I wanted to shoot at night so I could control all the lighting and bring in colors to help the garments pop. Then I came up with a lighting diagram for what I thought would look cool, keeping in mind the cars, the garments and the models walking on a mirrored runway I purchased for Couture,” said Newkirk.
Ballet dancer Ashley Thursby was one of the featured models on Newkirk’s mirrored runway. “I was on pointe for the entirety [of the shoot]” said Thursby. “I wore a piece by Kris Thompson made of zippers, horsehair, woven elements and plenty of sparkle! The detailed work that went into this wearable art made it so fun to collaborate by adding ‘punk ballerina’ inspired dance elements as I walked the runway. I can’t wait to see the final cut and look forward to watching with my friends!”
How will the 2021 KMAC Couture film change the experience for viewers? “The film allows us, in some ways, to get a closer look,” said Yates using the description of a microscope, like how a mic makes us louder. “The film and visual impact can heighten or intensify the designs.” Yates also shared that, for this year’s production, “Our sponsors including Blue Grass and Hermitage were integral to the process – we bounced ideas off of them creatively. [We are] really grateful for what we had access to at both film locations, along with Z-bar (a live music venue that has been closed due to the pandemic), and Hell or High Water.”
After months of collaboration, six days of production and hundreds of hours of editing the film – which was created using a variety of cameras from Black Magics to Canons and iPhones – “KMAC Couture: Beauty and the Beat” will premiere on Friday, October 1 at Repurposed (formerly Resurfaced, 615 W. Main Street). The premiere will include multiple showings and a VIP experience.
You can learn more about KMAC Couture and purchase tickets starting in early August at kmacmuseum.org/couture.