Arts & CultureArts & Culture Features

What Sustains You?

“Beauty in the world, the environment, architecture, clothing. But also I think love, great food and creative work. And great coffee.â€

These are the things that sustain Sanni Baumgärtner, who, along with Rachel Barnes and Maggie Benoit, heads the Athens Fashion Collective, a group that has posed the question of “What sustains you?” in flyers and email requests across town. Their campaign for a sustainable Athens is the theme for the Athens Fashion Collective Spring Showcase this Saturday at Jittery Joe’s Roaster and Stan Mullins’ Art Studio.

“I approached Michael Lachowski about having a fashion show a couple of years ago,†says Barnes. “It had been a while since I had worked with him on Young, Foxy & Free magazine or with anything involving fashion, and I was getting antsy. He loved the idea, and so I immediately approached Sanni and Maggie. Since then we’ve worked with so many great people to bring four amazing shows. I think sustainability means understanding a vision of what I’d like life to look like and recognizing the practical steps it takes to make that vision a functional reality,†she adds. “It’s me being aware of my surroundings and the role I play within that landscape. I’m a product of my environment.â€

For Baumgärtner, a vintage clothing redesigner whose work will be featured at the showcase, the issue of sustainability begins with fashion. Her store, Community, located above the downtown Jittery Joe’s, features sustainable fashion: vintage, contemporary pre-worn, redesigned or locally made clothing. The redesigns also keep otherwise unwanted clothing out of the landfill.

“That’s where I see the fashion industry going—toward sustainability and local manufacturing,†says Baumgärtner. “It’s a fashion movement, like the local food movement. The fashion industry uses sweat shops, and chemicals and dyes that impact the environment. People learn more about that and pay more attention to where their clothes are coming from. It’s now about using organic cotton, repurposing things and reviving the domestic garment industry.â€

Baumgärtner opened Community with the intent not just of selling her redesigns, but also creating a place to help sustain the Athens community. She sells various items by local artists and craftspeople, including Emily Newdow pillows, Andy Cherewick paintings, Laurel Hill jewelry, Cindy Jerrell photography, Little Cuckoo Chocolates and Songbird Soaps, for prices that both the artist and customer can comfortably live with. The store also offers sewing classes from beginning basics to alterations and redesign, furthering the idea of helping the community sustain itself.

Her line of redesigned vintage clothing, called Community Service, is made in her store. Sanni describes this spring’s show as “the most elaborate collection yet,†using different techniques such as dyeing and screen-printing. As for other details of the spring collection—or the other featured designer, Claire Buyens—those secrets will be revealed Saturday. But the Athens Fashion Collective’s theme of a sustainable Athens goes beyond the runway.

“Athens Fashion Collective aims to advocate and foster the culture of Athens in a creative, positive light,†says Benoit, the event coordinator. “Our mission is to unify the community, bringing together local fashion designers, artists, musicians and entrepreneurs.”

“Because Athens is known for having such a great music scene, we want to shine some light on the other great aspects of our killer town, such as art and fashion,†adds Barnes, who’s responsible for staging the runway presentation. “And since music, fashion and art go so well together, we wanted an outlet to present them all.â€

Jittery Joe’s Roaster (780 E. Broad St.) will host the first half of the event, featuring runway shows by Community Service and Claire Buyens, and live music by pacificUV. There will also be a gallery art show curated by Barnes and Jen Holt, art by Walker Howle and an art installation by Brooke Davidson and Fabric Design students from Lamar Dodd School of Art.

The second half moves to Stan Mullins’ Art Studio (650 Pulaski St.) for a garden party and multimedia collaborative with audience interaction. Fashion presentations by Alexandra Parsons and Sarah Lawrence will be accompanied by additional contributions by Patty Lacrete, Mark Magnarella, Habitat for Humanity and Stan Mullins. Music will be provided by powerkompany, Walker Howle (Dead Confederate), Paul Nunn, and DJ Electrophoria accompanied by DJ Free Money.

Even the two locations for the event support the theme of sustainability. Stan Mullins’ Art Studio was originally the office and warehouse for the Southern Cotton Oil Company, which used cotton seed to make oil. Jittery Joe’s Roaster was originally a Budweiser distribution point, repurposed several times before settling in as the beloved coffee roaster location with character—although its fate is unknown as the Selig development discussions continue. That’s one of the reasons it was chosen as the location for the fashion show.

“I would like to bring people to see the Roaster if they haven’t been before, to see what a magical and beautiful space it is,†says Baumgärtner. “Ideally, I’d like it to be preserved.â€

While this is the fourth fashion show presented by Athens Fashion Collective, it’s the first to address the issue of a sustainable Athens, inspired by the increasingly heated debates regarding the Selig development. The collective set the event as a platform to drive home the concept of sustaining Athens culture and why it’s important.

“What does the past, present and future of this town look like from the standpoint of the arts, music, business entrepreneurship and education?†asks Benoit. “What kind of Athens do we want to keep alive and foster for the next generation? Our aim is to steer away from a stagnant quagmire circling a problem, and highlight the strengths that we have,†she says. “Focusing on those strengths can be conversation starters for inventive ways to get creative with productive solutions.â€

That’s not fad. That’s forward-thinking fashion.

WHAT: Athens Fashion Collective Spring Event

WHERE: Jittery Joe’s Roaster and Stan Mullins’ Art Studio

WHEN: Saturday, Apr. 21, 6:30–8 p.m. (JJ’s Roaster), 10 p.m.–1 a.m. (Mullins’ Studio)