Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Fashion designers thrive at Billy Porter Phipps exhibit.

Flowers Meet Fashion: Inspired by Billy Porter

Photo: Paul G. Wiegman

Flowers Meet Fashion: Inspired by Billy Porter

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens extended its Flowers Meet Fashion: Inspired by Billy Porter show due to high visitor rates. That means there is still time to see how local college and high school students became an active part of creating the exhibit’s dramatic, vibrant outfits.

Professional fashion designers worked with students from the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts magnet high school (CAPA) and Carnegie Mellon University — Porter’s alma mater — to create costumes inspired by the stylish outfits worn by the Pittsburgh-born and raised performer known for his Broadway, television, and film contributions.

Originally debuted on May 6, Flowers Meet Fashion was organized by Phipps’ associate director of exhibits Jordyn Melino, and is described in a press release as featuring “brilliant horticultural displays and breathtaking fashion designs” inspired by Porter’s Pittsburgh roots and accomplishments. Among the featured designs is a display inspired by Porter’s role in the Broadway show Kinky Boots, a gold costume hovering over a water lily pond, and an aquaponics dress filled with live fish, as well as three dresses made with dried plant material.

Collaboration with Students

Photo: Paul G. Wiegman

Flowers Meet Fashion: Inspired by Billy Porter

CMU students read Porter’s autobiography, Unprotected: A Memoir, to gain inspiration. They then split into three groups to decide on the meaning behind the works on display until Sun., Aug. 13 at Phipps.

CAPA students collaborated with the school’s visual arts chair, Shannon Pultz, and teacher, Tesna Varner, to create and design the installations with Phipps team members. Melissa Pearlman, who serves as the principal at CAPA, says many of their “visual artists” took a field trip to Phipps and were able to “experience the exhibit as patrons, which was fantastic.”

“At CAPA, one of our core objectives is to empower our students, enabling them to see the impact of their work, their creations, their voice, and their music within the larger community,” she adds.

The Emotional Significance

When asked about the emotional significance of this project, Tsu says, “It holds a lot of heart. You know, first of all, at heart, strength and determination are both qualities that Billy has. I think that to conceive and draw an extraordinary costume, it’s one thing. To make it and to commit to it is quite another. Yes, and so it took determination but also took love.”


Flowers Meet Fashion: Inspired by Billy Porter. Continues through Sun., Aug. 13. One Schenley Park, Oakland. Included with regular admission. phipps.conservatory.org

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About Brynn Carlson

Brynn Carlson is a fashion and beauty blogger with a passion for all things stylish and glamorous. She covers fashion, clothing, haircare, beauty, makeup, and skincare. With a keen eye for detail and a love for experimenting with new styles and products, Brynn offers valuable insights and tips to help her readers look and feel their best. Follow her and discover the latest trends, products, and techniques to enhance your beauty and style!

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