During Project Runway season 16’s “unconventional materials” group challenge, contestants were tasked with creating outfits that were…well…unconventional. But more specifically, they were provided with unconventional materials from a recycling center in Queens, New York, by Marie Claire Editor-in-Chief and guest judge Anne Fulenwider.
The idea behind this challenge was to promote sustainable fashion.
And while many of the designers were found to be a bit overwhelmed, 27-year-old Ayana Ife, who got her bachelor’s degree in apparel design from Middle Tennessee State University, wasn’t phased.
In fact, Ife told Marie Claire:
“My mom was a seamstress when I was younger, so I’d pick up her scraps and make doll clothes out of them, or remake the hand-me-downs I got from my sisters.”
Here’s a little background on Ayana Ife:
Ayana is a Muslim and a Salt Lake City–based designer who struggled to find clothes that were not only cool but also was respectful to the religious rules she followed and kept her covered up.
“Growing up, I mostly wore long, loose-fitting, burka-type garments. When I entered the working world, I realized that didn’t fit every environment. But I couldn’t find any Western- style clothes with a modest edge, like distressed jeans but lined.”
Ife refused to believe that modest and sexy were mutually exclusive. So with that she began designing pieces that, if worn together, they would respectfully cover the body from head to wrist to toe, but you could also opt to wear separately for a more adventurous look.
So when mentor Tim Gunn from Project Runway, surveyed the designs of Ife’s group, he concluded the group’s overall look in-cohesive.
But it was Ife’s long-sleeve fringed maxi dress with bodice detailing, which was made from vinyl, plastic, tray covers, bottle caps, and paint, that allowed their team to win the challenge.
“The dress was deeply chic, and I didn’t even know that she was trying to design modest fashion!”
And former Marie Claire Creative Director and Project Runway judge Nina Garcia says :
“Ayana’s strength is that she’s able to contour her materials and use texture to express some- thing about the woman herself, instead of rely- ing on flesh to make a statement.”