UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 04 Spring 16 Library
Tom Coghill

Culture Couture Hits the Runway

(Photo: Tom Coghill)

Create with the Kluge-Ruhe

In March, a special fashion performance, titled Culture Couture, was presented by the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection at the University of Virginia. The event, held at the Jefferson Theater, was the culmination of a year-long initiative that combined the unique and dynamic marriage of Indigenous Australian art and fashion with the creativity of UVA students. Culture Couture was inspired by a trip to Australia in 2014 by Lauren Maupin, Education and Program Coordinator at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection, during which she was introduced to a fashion performance showcasing the work of Indigenous Australian artists. “I was overwhelmed and impressed by the ease with which the artists transferred their designs to the new medium of fabric and the context of a runway,” Maupin said. “Given that UVA has no fashion program, I felt Kluge-Ruhe could fill a need for students by bringing the two worlds together.” 

To get the ball rolling, the Kluge-Ruhe Collection launched a fashion design contest in January 2015, inviting students to submit sketches. Marcy Linton of the Drama Department offered a course in which students fabricated their designs, aided by visits to the Kluge-Ruhe Collection and Skype sessions with artists in Australia. The Culture Couture audience also got rare glimpses at garments and accessories made by leading Indigenous Australian artists and designers specifically for the occasion, and enjoyed live music by Indigenous trio Biliirr. Students were involved in the production of the show from start to finish, serving in roles such as co-manager, model, marketing coordinator, photographer, music producer and more. Culture Couture was sponsored by the UVA Arts Council, the Embassy of Australia, the UVA Parents Committee, the UVA Department of Drama, and the Office of the Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts.

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