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Strutting with Bonnie Toland

Aug. 31, 2012
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On Friday Sept. 7, the Intercontinental Hotel hosts the second annual STRUT fashion competition where 20+ interior design teams will derobe their raiments constructed around the theme of Wisconsin Manufacturing. Bonnie Toland, a “warrior of design” whose autobiography reads like a blueprint for social consciousness, strutted away from last year's sold out debut with “Best of Show” and “Audience Choice” trophies. Toland also contributes behind the scenes with co-sponsors, the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) and the American Society of Interior Design (ASID) towards bridging the realms of architecture and fashion.

How did you get involved in a fashion competition?

The event is put on in other markets by our professional interior design organizations so I participated and won in Arizona three years ago. When I heard they were going to do it in Wisconsin, I wanted to help.

How many hours are logged into a production?

As a competitor and committee member I'd say quite a few! It's donated and the proceeds from this show benefit Wisconsin Chapters of Ronald McDonald House Charities.

What tools are provided to manifest the design?

In addition to your assigned color and overall theme to work off, each team gets an industry collaborator such as a rep or manufacturer and given access to their materials. From that they have to create the runway piece. Teams that win tend to have clear concepts and clever use of the material. A group in Arizona was appointed a carpet manufacturer, so they could use the backing of the carpet or just the yarn. They ended up knitting a swimsuit.

Are you teamed up with any clothing designers?

No and that's challenging. I was once placed with a furniture company and had to make a pattern after veneer. I learned to sew doing this competition.

What is the backstory on your previous winning garment?

Wisconsin Landscapes was the theme and our color was blue-green so we chose the lake as our concept. Our manufacturing partner was Inpro, a provider of wall covering for hospitals. We cut thin strips of vinyl and created the light to dark green gradated loops attached at the bottom of the dress (which was made out of privacy curtains) in cascading waves. White beaded curtain pull strings adorned the front to imitate a spray of water. The jacket, embellished with the same beaded trim, appeared like a set of wings when the model stretched out her arms, reminiscent of Calatrava.

Can you give us a hint of your team's vision?

The theme is intentionally left somewhat vague for freedom of interpretation. I would tell you ours but it's a secret. I don't want to ruin the surprise.


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