It was a challenge fit for the hit fashion reality show Project Runway: Wow an audience with a wearable creation that's at least 50 percent glass, whether it's glass that's been recycled, kiln-formed, or blown, among other techniques. The only difference between this fashion show and a high-end couture exhibition?
The crowd didn't patiently sit to watch designs paraded down the catwalk -- they went wild.
Artists from Turkey, Australia, Japan, Canada, the United States, Ireland, and Portugal brought their glass designs to a makeshift catwalk in the Huntington Center Saturday night for the Glass Fashion Show, the finale of the 2012 Glass Art Society Conference that began in Toledo on Wednesday and celebrated the 50th anniversary of the American Studio Glass Movement.
Attendees at the private event included conference members and supporters of the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, who paid $50 each to attend.
"This fashion show is about funky, about, 'Oh my God, what are people thinking?' " said Robert Zollweg, the corporate design and creative director for marketing and new product development at Toledo's Libbey Inc., who walked the runway.
Seventy male and female models ranging in age from 13 to 90 shimmied down the catwalk, doing John Travolta-esque disco moves and popping their hips as the strains of the Jackson 5 and Diana Ross blasted from the speakers.
"I wouldn't do this within 1,000 miles of where I live," said Dudley Anderson, 74, a glass collector from Montreal who dressed as a drag queen in 4-inch silver wedges, lime- green fishnets, a coral-colored dress with glass pieces attached, a blond wig, and glass breasts. Yet, said his close friend Joe Mendel, 78, who joined him on the runway, "I wish they'd give us half an hour out there."
The fashion on display didn't come without a cost. "There's always blood," said Laura Donefer, the Canadian-raised glass blower who organized the show. "People get cut on costumes and get burned making costumes, but they love it, people just love it … we wing it, we invent it, we improvise it -- that's where the fun is."
This year's event marked the 10th time that Ms. Donefer volunteered to put on the Glass Fashion Show, which she began in 1989. "I wanted to get the artists out of their little studios and environments and get them thinking outside of the box and also having fun with the glass," she said of her reasons for starting the fashion show.
While the fragility of ensembles is certainly an issue -- volunteers were stationed alongside the catwalk to sweep away fallen pieces of glass -- the weight of the wearable art is more of a concern. Some costumes weighed between 30 and 50 pounds, and the finale dress, a gold outfit with 15 dozen cordial stemware glasses clinking against it, was about 80 pounds.
The piece, designed by Toledo resident Patricia Levey as an homage to Libbey glass, was a fittingly regal conclusion to a night that celebrated the quirkiness and friendships within the glass-making community.
"It's my two minutes of fame," said Vaz Zastera, a glass artist from Kemptville, Ontario, who was in a 15- pound black wizard cape with glass beading lining its edges and square glass pieces from top to bottom. "But it's not just about those two minutes -- it's all about the work that went into making [the outfit] and about meeting people. Every year [the show] has gotten bigger and better."
One thing's for sure -- Project Runway judges would've been impressed.
Contact Madeline Buxton at: email@example.com or 419-724-6368.