Shibori is an intensive reverse-dye process used to create unique fabrics.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It was early on a Friday during New York's recent Fashion Week.
Joscelyn Himes was sitting up straight in the back row of the bleachers at Vera Wang's show, straining to see each garment as the models emerged on the catwalk.
Then, No. 4 appeared. Himes, a Kansas City area fiber artist, was stunned.
For the first time, she saw her own fabric on the runway. Wang had fashioned it into a sweeping, pale evening gown that seemed almost airborne. Himes, 32, created the subtle pattern with the Japanese tie-dyeing shibori process in her Missouri home.
"It was awesome," she said after the show. The dress "moved so beautifully. I had no idea she would take it to where she went."
A few minutes later, No. 18 hit the spotlight. The rich-yellow short evening gown was again made in Himes' material, the abstract shibori pattern moving gently in the flared skirt.
Traditionally, when audiences watch the montage of fashion shows, they may or may not be impressed with the design aesthetic. Only a few professionals look beyond to the source of materials. Himes is one of those in the background relishing the opportunity to see her work in the spotlight.
A graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute, she is a remarkable artist who seems poised to move into the American fashion arena. Recently she received orders from Wang's office to reproduce 30 textile pieces for each of the two dresses.
It is a big step but a natural evolution for the young woman who grew up in California and Montana in a family of artisans. Her mother dyed, wove and knitted yarns. She taught her daughter to sew before she started school. Himes says she made her first shirt, a Hawaiian print top, when she was 5.
She thinks she is about the "ninth generation" of textile artists. "Working with materials is something I've been doing almost since I was alive."
When she came from Montana to Kansas City to study, she chose an eclectic program at first, exploring art history, sculpture and classic art. She avoided fiber art for a time "because I had been doing it most of my life."
At the institute, she met her future husband, Devon Himes, a co-owner of Renaissance Studio, which offers a unique Venetian plaster finish. When their twins, now 6, were born, the demands on her time sent her back to her first art because she knew it well.
"In times of stress, I can deal with color. And I can deal with pattern," she says.
Shibori is an intensive reverse-dye process in which fabric such as silk or organza may be wrapped, stitched, dyed and generally manipulated into a layered pattern. Artists often appreciate the serendipitous nature of the print, which tends to vary. Himes describes the process as a "combination of chemicals and art."
But now her challenge is to reproduce each piece exactly the same if it is to be used in a garment or pillow. She takes careful notes on her chemical formulas and her process. "Sometimes I let myself go on a tangent but not very often."
Some of her early commercial work has been in home products. She made 500 pillows for the rooms at the Hotel Phillips in Kansas City. She has done custom work in draperies and a series of bed spreads.
She is scheduled for a collaborative art show this year. And her resume also includes two years at Asiatica, a Kansas City area retail company whose products include upscale clothing fashioned with an Asian aesthetic.
She began to move more directly toward apparel early last year when friends helped put her in touch with a design executive at Ralph Lauren in New York. The woman enthusiastically praised her work. "She gave me a personal perspective. She said, 'You can be confident to show this to everybody.'"
Himes met with Michael Vollbracht, the Bill Blass designer, in January shortly before his February show. He bought two pieces, she says, but his collection was almost complete. Time was short, and her pieces didn't make it into his show.
On that trip she met with the print director for Wang, a high-profile designer known especially for bridal gowns and red carpet credits. Wang was launching a sportswear collection for spring and in April, the company called Himes for samples. She submitted about 50 pieces.
"I sent them a box full. They wanted to see everything." Within a few days, she had a response. They wanted four different color backgrounds and manipulations, she says.
Jason Pollen, chairman of fiber art department at the Art Institute, calls Himes brilliant.
"Her work just transcends her ingredients, and it becomes art. It's like cooking when someone gets the ingredients right and you know something special is happening. It's not about technique. It's about art," he says.