Local passion for fashion

On a Tuesday morning, the sewing machines are humming in Laura Davidson's fiber arts class at Ashland High School.

Brightly colored fabric scraps are piled high in the corners. A student fastens some handmade cloth flowers on the bodice of a sleeveless tailored dress made out of a turquoise floral print.

Most of the sewing projects in the high school's three fiber arts classes end as gifts to friends or family or part of the student's wardrobe.

But this year, some of the classes' projects such as the turquoise floral dress will be publicly showcased in an event called "Ashland Runway," organized by student Alaina Barrett as part of her senior project for graduation. The fashion show, featuring dresses and handbags, will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Grilla Bites, 47 N. Main St. on the Ashland Plaza, and will coincide with the town's First Friday event when art galleries stay open late.

The event is modeled after "Project Runway," a reality TV show in which designers compete in creating garments with limits on time, materials, budget and purpose.

Barrett, who hopes to start her own design line one day, solicited 17 volunteers from the fiber arts program to serve as designers.

Designers were given a $30 limit for materials to make a handbag and a $35 limit to make a dress. Fabric of Vision in Ashland donated gift certificates for the students to purchase their materials.

The projects could be based on a pattern, but the pattern had to be modified in some way to make the design unique, Barrett said.

Junior Dana Kossluk used a Simplicity pattern to make a shoulder bag out of a modern geometric print in orange, yellow, black, beige and white.

"I changed it by adding pockets to the side," Kossluk said.

"I think it's really fun, and it's raising money for the fiber arts department," Kossluk said. "If you didn't really think about it, you wouldn't think that it cost that much to sew, but it really does."

Ashland High School has one of the few remaining sewing programs in the state. Sewing classes at high schools have vanished over the years, in part because of the cost of keeping the program alive and in part because of a greater focus on academics, Davidson said. Another contributing factor is the cheapness of ready-to-wear clothing, she said.

Barrett studied fiber arts for all four years of high school. She plans to study business at Oregon State University, then go on to the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles to study design.

"I really want to be a designer," Barrett said. "I want to open my own clothing line and store. My best friend (Zena Shelton, who made the turquoise floral dress) is on the same track."

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.

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