When Balloons Meet Fashion

Alice and the Mad Hatter played by Jacqueline Hernandez and Sheldon Blake. Also pictured, designers Larry Moss and Kelly Cheatle. The Queen of Hearts by Larry Moss and Kelly Cheatle appeared in the Las Vegas Balloon Couture Fashion Show in 2008.

It was at least a year ago when viral email, filled with photos of balloon dresses, traveled across the Internet. It was fun to see the public getting excited over balloon artwork. (It would have been much nicer if the designers were credited in that email, but that's a topic for another time.) There was some beautiful work in those photos, and things have come so much further even in the last year since those circulated.   Since the time that those pieces of couture fashion were created in China, there have been a  couple of balloon fashion shows in the US.  Many of the same artists took part, along with others that were intrigued by the whole concept.

The Balloon Couture Fashion Show in Las Vegas, Nevada last summer, and then again last week, was a perfect opportunity to try new things. I actually made my first balloon costume (I wouldn't have called it "clothing" just yet) at least 15 years ago, but it was just a novelty that I didn't think was worth pursuing. Then again several years ago, I started making full size bride and groom sculptures that included fairly intricate clothing. Those tuxedos and dresses weren't designed to be worn by people. At the time, I wasn't worried about sizing them to a model, and I didn't consider mobility while wearing them.  Clearly, the popularity of the recent fashion shows demonstrated that I needed to rethink my designs and actually get them onto models.  And if I was going to do this now, I had to find  a way to make my pieces different from the clothing other artists were already creating.

Artists like Rie Hosokai and Debbie Stevens (just to name a couple) demonstrated that balloon clothing could be just as elegant as couture made with other materials. I decided to take things in a different direction. Balloons are fun and playful. I wanted to make more whimsical pieces. For last year's show, Kelly and I created clothing that resembled playing cards. We captured the reflection of the models in the lower portion of the clothes in the way that playing cards do.  This year, we created Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter.  The first challenge was to create clothing that was fun and playful. We wanted to tell a story. The second challenge was creating an outfit for a male model.  In the balloon fashion shows seen around the world, the focus has always been on dresses. Creating paints,  jackets and shoes are typically avoided due to the difficulty of executing them cleanly. We were determined to take that on directly.

Clothing and detailed balloon weaving is showing up in more places. Kelly and I will be pushing the envelope even further in the work we're creating for ArtPrize. While in Grand Rapids for ArtPrize in a couple weeks, I'll also be teaching a class that will go into weaving fabrics and dress creation, along with techniques used in  very large scale creations, like Soccer Players, which was co-designed with Royal Sorell.

The Las Vegas Fashion Show got the attention of NBC's Today Show.  A feature story about the event will appear on  Today on September 1, during the 8 AM hour. Larry will be appearing live on the show as part of the story. He'll be making caricatures of some of the Today Show cast. Make sure to tune in!