Since 2010 the International Interior Design Association’s Mid Atlantic Chapter [IIDAMAC] has held a unique and exciting fundraising event called Cosmo Couture.  This year’s fashion show, at Howard Theater (620 T St NW Washington, DC), partnered 24 local architecture and interior design firms with manufacturers to create one of a kind garments to reflect the theme “environments”.  While that sounds simple enough, restrictions such as, ‘the garment must be made of at least 85% of materials’ and ‘only $500 of contributed materials may be used’ and ‘no outside tailors or seamstresses may be used’, really forces the design teams to be creative in various ways.

Collective Architecture and Designtex’s “Jungle” themed garment. Photograph by Scott Kelly

This year IIDAMAC donated $10,500 for Rebuilding Together of Washington, DC , a nonprofit that aims to preserve and revive homes and buildings in low-income areas and over $100,000 since the events inception. Rebuilding Together also provides free home repairs to veterans, elderly and disabled homeowners that don’t have the financial means to do so. With a great cause in mind and a theme like “environment”, how could you go wrong?  Rain forest, river, swamp, sky, plain and canyon are just a few of the themes the design firms had to choose from.

From the left, judges Kim Ellen Atkins and Stara Pezeshkian captivated by the Haute Couture winner by Little Diversified Architectural Consulting and BuzziSpace’s interpretation of “Garden”. Photograph by Scott Kelly

While I’ve always been a spectator from afar for Cosmo Couture, this year I was able to observe the judging process and get an up-close view of each garment and see what resonated with the judges.  This year’s five judges, Kim Ellen Atkins, a multimedia journalist and fashion designer, Matthew Hyatt, Principal at Bergmeyer and the current IIDA New England chapter President, Michael McCarthy, editor-in-chief of DC Modern Luxury, Stara Pezeshkian, fashion and interior stylist, and Janice Wallace, editor-in-chief of Facon Magazine had very tough decisions to make.  Judges had to decide who took home this year’s awards which included, Haute Couture, Best Interpretation of Theme, Best Performance, Best Red Carpet Look and Best Use of Materials with a sixth award for Audience Favorite which used Twitter as a voting method.

Kate Magee with Perkins + Will and TURF “Best Performance” winner. Photograph by Scott Kelly

The creativity and storytelling behind each garment was beyond belief!  Some teams focused on the sensitivity of climate change, oceanic acidification, pollution, natural transformation and seasonal transition, but a few stood out to the judges and audience.  Perkins + Will, partnered with Turf, used a combination of felt, thread and wire to reflect the theme of “Farm”.  With the combination of “This design as a commentary to the agricultural industry as it pertains to the treatment of livestock and specifically poultry products” and bubbly performance of model, Kate Magee, the team won “Best Performance”.

Models Elizabeth Morgan and Mitch August helps Hughes Group and Architectural Ceramics clinch the “Best use of Materials” award. Photograph by Scott Kelly

Another standout garment was the award winner for “Best Use of Materials” by Hughes Group Architects and Architectural Ceramics.  This was one of two teams that included two models and the amount of detail and creative use of materials that went into both garments was astonishing.  The design team used glass mosaic tile, ceramic tile, glass and ceramic tile backing, crushed glass tile, underlayment and reclaimed wood tiles to reflect their eerie theme “Swamp” and “invoke elements of Louisiana voodoo folklore”.

KCCT and Shaw Contract claimed the “Best Interpretation of Theme”. Photograph by Scott Kelly

Lastly, KCCT and Shaw Contract claimed the “Best Interpretation of Theme”.  Their theme “Plain” was “Inspired by the raw natural beauty of the plains, filled with various shades of hues and compiling a textured array of grasses flowers and sunsets”, but also had a harmonious relationship to the Native American culture and woven patterns. To create the tiered skirt and fringe, KCCT had to learn multiple knit and macramé techniques to creatively weave hundreds of feet of yarn from carpet.

Ultimately it came down to the details, creativity, quality and hard work. As designers, how could you not respect the decisions made and amazing cause this event supports?  I hope some of the garments can be put on display for inspiration, as it is tough to see the amount of work (hundreds of hours) that goes into each garment from a distance, as we look forward to next year’s event.  Congratulations to everyone and the IIDAMAC team that orchestrated such an amazing event.

While I was not able to highlight all garments, winners, makeup and details please stay tuned for more information on the IIDAMAC webpage and follow IIDAMAC on Instagram and Facebook.

**The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the IIDA Mid Atlantic Chapter.**