By Patsy Isenberg
Water bottles are taking on new life as fashion in a project coming back to Flint this weekend. The Flint Fit project kicked off at a press conference last fall has come to fruition and is showing off its wares in the city whose travails inspired it. Saturday, Sept. 15 at the Capitol Theatre, artist Mel Chin and designer Tracy Reese will present prototype garments made from fabric created from 90,000 of Flint’s recycled water bottles. [See an EVM article about the press conference here from November, 2017].
Last Oct. 30 several representatives from both the Flint Water Crisis community and the art project itself were on hand at The St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center here in Flint to introduce the project. Holding the press conference there went hand in hand with the plan for the skilled seamstresses at the center to eventually produce the garments. The beauty of this undertaking, planners asserted, is that it’s both an environmentally-conscious project and also aiming to be a bold and futuristic creative endeavor.
The project is explained in a recent Flint Fit promotional piece as “an artist’s idea to transform empty plastic bottles from residents of Flint, Michigan into a hopeful possibility. Flint’s empty water bottles are transformed into thread, thread becomes fabric, fabric becomes fashion and fashion gets fabricated right back in Flint.” The first collection can be seen here this week.
The event will begin in the lobby on Saturday, Sept. 15 at The Capitol Theatre downtown where the collection can be seen and arts activities for children will take place. Tracy Reese, a New York-born, Michigan-based fashion designer, will be there to present her promised collection at 6 p.m. Following that, at 7 p.m., a screening of the documentary film in process by Ben Premeaux, “The Story of Flint Fit,” will be shown in the theatre.
Flint Fit is part of “All Over the Place,” a multi-location project by conceptual Artist Mel Chin. His work was commissioned and presented by Queens Museum in NYC., where the collection of garments debuted at a fashion event during the exhibition’s opening. The work is also now displayed in the museum’s Watershed Gallery.
The title of the piece, “All Over the Place” is a descriptive because the work and the processes were conceived and carried out in several locations. In the case of the Flint Fit part of the larger project, “ the strengths of places, as an action in the face of crisis, connecting New York City; Flint, Michigan; and Greensboro, North Carolina in time, function, and fashion” are used.
The Flint Water Crisis produced the raw material (empty water bottles), the recycling took place at Unifi, Inc. in Greensboro, North Carolina, and the design was done by Tracy Reese. Her designs were then given to St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center in Flint to sew the prototypes for the show–the whole project thus coming full-circle. Mel Chin’s work on “All Over the Place” is further explained here.
Reese was born in Detroit in 1964 and attended Cass Technical High School. Her interest in fashion design began as a child while sewing alongside her mother. She moved to NYC in 1982 to attend Parsons School of Design. After obtaining her degree she worked under several top design houses, eventually launching her own label. The Flint Fit designs focus on rainwear and swimwear. A preview of her designs can be seen here.
The event is free with an RSVP ticket, available by calling 810-237-7333 for reservations. The Flint Fit event is made possible by the Greater Flint Arts Council Parade of Festivals program through funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation with additional support from The Whiting.
EVM staff writer Patsy Isenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.