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Atlantic Fashion Week Recap

by Matt Bowness | November 13, 2013

The Seventh Atlantic Fashion Week took place on Saturday October 5th at The Atrium in Dartmouth N.S. I'll be honest, when I first heard that the venue was a furniture store I was a little skeptical. Then I walked in the building.

Photo by Denis Duquette

     It was a shockingly beautiful venue with a 200 foot marble walkway. As we loaded the stuff into the backstage area I knew the chain pieces would look amazing against the white, and it would allow the irridescent beetle wings to shine perfectly. Not to mention that since there were online a couple of rows of seats everyone in the audience would have a great view.

     Model call time was 4PM, we arrived at 4:10 into a room of approximately 100 people. As someone who doesn't socialize a whole lot, it was a little overwhelming, and as a bald man, the smell of hairspray was a little nauseating.


Photo by Denis Duquette


     What we thought would be a quick fitting turned into 2 hours of model wrangling. I had attended the model call weeks prior and that was were I met my models for about 1 minute each. Picking them out of a crowd was not easy but luckily my collaborator, Kelly, and our assistant, Kinza were willing to brave the crowd with my poorly printed headshots (you can't blame me for wanting to save ink) to find them. We finished all of our fittings at about 6:20 (rehersal was at 7PM) and we dropped off our pieces at the venue (which was next door to the spot where hair and makeup was being done).

     Then we had to go on a quick search for food, and a pair of underwear for a model! Once all of that was done we showed up at the venue at 7:10, just as the rehearsal was getting started.

     The show started at 8:30 and we were on last, so it gave us time to work on a few last minute adjustments. Kelly and Kinza set to modifying a couple of pieces, while I did some last minute adjustments on the beetle wing dress.

     There is always a certain chaos backstage in a show like this where designers are sharing models. Models often walk the runway then have to immediately do a quick change for the next designer. But as long as everyone is organized and knows where they are going, it all goes off without a hitch. Which it did. In the moment it feels like chaos, but in reality everyone knew what they were doing and it all came together perfectly.

Here are the designs we showed this year.

     Essentially two construction materials were used beyond fabric: antiqued brass chain, and the wing covers from Thai Jewel Beetles. First up was a pair of black pants embelleshed with stripes of chain and a necklace made from about 300 wing covers.


Photo by Stefanie Glasgow

© Brent McCombs/AlterEgo photography


Then we had a chain triangle necklace and a bolero embellished with wings.

© Brent McCombs/AlterEgo photography


Next we had a black peplum dress with an abstract pattern of wings on the back, and a simple little necklace with a clump of wings on it. I really like the way the necklace swung with the models motion. I think this dress was one of the highlights of our show.


© Brent McCombs/AlterEgo photography


Then came the chain box top. I call it a box top because...well...it's made from a bunch of chain boxes! We paired this with a pair of beetle wing chandelier earrings.


© Brent McCombs/AlterEgo photography


We followed that with a beetle wing body chain and a pair of shorts adorned with hundreds of beetle wings. These shorts are another one of my favorite pieces. My favorite detail is how the tips of the wings sit slightly lower on the shorts and ever so slightly overlap the models legs.


Photo by Stefanie Glasgow

© Brent McCombs/AlterEgo photography


Next up was the chain top paired with a beetle wing bracelet. This chain top is essentially what inspired the entire chain collection. I spent a significant amount of time putting it together and when it was done, I loved the way it hung.


© Brent McCombs/AlterEgo photography


It was followed by the box dress. I'll confess, I didn't like this piece one bit until I saw it on the model and then I really, liked it. When it was paired with the black maxi dress I thought it was taken to a whole new level.


© Brent McCombs/AlterEgo photography


My absolute favorite piece came next. The chain dress. This dress is totally impractical. It's made from 190 feet of chain and weighs about 10 pounds. I really have to send an extra shout out to the model for wearing it. It's SO heavy. But if you want to look sexy and be impervious to stabbings, it's perfect!


© Brent McCombs/AlterEgo photography


So why didn't we close the show with the chain dress? Well, it might be my favorite piece, but I think the last piece is more technically impressive.


Photo by Denis Duquette


The beetle wing dress. This dress is made from 2,000 wing covers of Thai Jewel Beetles (sternocera aequisignata). Each individual wing had to have two holes poked in it and be attached by hand to two lengths of chain. Then each chain had to be attached to the next strand of wings. Approximately 100 hours went into making this dress which would be totally destroyed if the wearer decided to sit down. It is, in my mind, the epitome of beauty for beautys sake. The irredescence of the wings makes the motion of the dress beautiful, and the sound of all the wings clicking together is unlike any noise you've ever heard a garment make!


© Brent McCombs/AlterEgo photography

Photo by Stefanie Glasgow


Now, time for a couple of thank yous. Thanks to Angela for having Overman back at AFW, and thanks for allowing us the privilege of closing the show. Thanks to all of of the backstage helpers, without you there would be no show. Thanks to the models who walked for me, every one of you was a pleasure to work with, you were all professional, eager, and talanted. A lot of people think modeling is an easy gig, but to them I say, 'You try putting on a 10 pound dress and heels and not fall down.” Thanks to Kinza for assisting at the show and to Graham and Erin for helping out by working on some of the pieces with Kelly and I. And finally, thanks to the photographers, Brent McCombs, Denis Duquette, and Stephanie Glasgow (as well as the others, but I want to mention those three as I've used their images in this post.) Getting to see your images make it all worthwhile.



Photo by Kelly Caseley





Posted in atlantic fashion week, beetle wing, chain, halifax, overman, runway

Atlantic Fashion Week

by Matt Bowness | September 20, 2013

So, if you follow me on facebook or other social media, you might know that I'll be displaying at Atlantic Fashion week again this year.  It'll be my second year at the show, which is the largest runway show in Atlantic Canada.

This year I've got Kelly Caseley collaborating with me, which is a huge help.  For a long time I've wanted to do some things, but I've been unable to do them because, well, I can't sew.  Kelly studied fashion at the International Design Academy, and is a master at all this stuff.  She's not just sewing though, she's helping creatively as well.  I definitely couldn't do this show without her help.

You can check out the Atlantic Fashion Week website, and if you're in Halifax, you could get yourself a ticket.

I can promise you that this year you'll see stuff from me that you've never seen before and, based on the amount of time these pieces are taking, you'll never see them again!

Posted in atlantic fashion week, runway

Is it Steampunk?

by Matt Bowness | August 22, 2013

Almost every day someone comes into my shop and uses the word “Steampunk” in some way.

Most of the people who use it are not very familiar with the term, having only heard it a few times from friends.  The most frequent question is,

"What do they call this type of stuff?  Steampunk?"

and my answer is usually,

"Some people call it that."

sometimes the conversation goes a little further and they ask,

"Well, what do you call it?"

and I answer,


So, the first reason I hesitate to call my jewelry "Steampunk" is because Steampunk is defined as " a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century."  I have never used a piece of steam powered machinery in any of my designs, and it is very rare for me to uses something that actually dates from the Victorian Era.  Most of the antique pieces I use date from about 1900 to 1970.

So, I think it's safe to say that, under the strict definition, my work is NOT steampunk.  And I'm positive that if you asked a hardcore steampunk fan they would agree.  This is why the word 'Steampunk' is used very sparingly on my website.

Okay.  So that's the strict definition.

I follow a few steampunk discussions online, and a lot of internet tough guys are always willing to jump down someones throat if they post a photo of something that is not strictly 'Steampunk'.  That's the second reason i don't call my work 'Steampunk'. What these hardcore fans don't seem to realize is that, to most people, if a piece of jewellery has an old watch part on it, then it's 'Steampunk'.  It might not fit their narrow definition, but their narrow definition is not helping the cause of making steampunk a more popular genre.

Anyway, I just wanted to put that out there.  If the vast majority of people consider something to be 'steampunk', when the hardcore fans don't, then I think it might be possible that the definition needs to be loosened up a little bit.

Personally, I don't care what you call my jewellery, as long as someone likes it enough to actually wear it.

Posted in definition, steampunk

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