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By Olaitan Fakinlede
We’ve all heard someone make a mention of the Green Movement at one time or another – a revolution that has been putting celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Sting, Brad Pitt and Salma Hayek on the map for more than their millionaire spending habits. But when the Green Movement is not busy toting around celebrity action heroes in organic cotton shopping bags or boasting big names at eco-revolutionary events – destined to change the lives of all those dwelling in excess worldwide – it stands at the forefront of city-specific soirees like the recent Queens is Green event in Long Island City, organized by Green Party Member Lynne Serpe.
Lynne Serpe claims that, “being Green is a lifestyle and not just a media-marketed, celebrity-backed movement, as some have come to believe.” She continued, “Part of going Green is buying locally and supporting local vendors.” Serpe decided to launch the Queens is Green show to prove it.
The event flyers – made of recycled paper and silk-screened organic ink by Arvid Nelson and Ciara Elend – was indicative of the Green innovations that would await us at the show. Over 150 people tried to reserve seats and only seventy could be admitted. In her opinion, the overflow was indicative of the Queens resident, and the average New Yorker’s definitive interest in Green.
The show was split into two segments, with the first showcasing ten competing Green Designers – seven clothing designers and three jewelry designers – while the second segment displayed local Queens shops and boutiques carrying Green goods. At the close of both segments the judges announced the winner: jewelry designer Joel Voisard, who stopped to talk to Ins&Outs about his win.
INS&OUTS: Congratulations, Mr. Voisard! How does it feel to win?
JOEL VOISARD: I was pleased but surprised because I was almost certain that one of the clothing designers would win.
I&O: Really? Well, your designs were chosen given their uniqueness and precision in construction; did you disagree with the judges?
JV: (Laughing) No, I definitely agree with the judges, but I assumed that there would naturally be more focus on clothing designers – and there were so many outstanding designers, the competition was stiff.
I&O: So given your background in sculpture design and textile and pattern-making, why did you decide to design jewelry as opposed to clothing?
JV: Seeing as I am not proficient in sewing and fabric construction, I knew clothing design was not my calling. But because I enjoy working with my hands, I naturally leaned towards jewelry design.
I&O: Can you tell us a little about your design line?
JV: Well, there are four lines, each consisting of a pair of earrings, necklace and a bracelet. The first line, “Red Light District,” was inspired by control room light bulbs from the ’50s. The second line, “Slate Knobs,” was inspired by knobs from 1970s Japan. The third line, “Orange Spacer,” was constructed from orange rubber banded spacers that I found from old cash registers. And the last line, “Coming Up Roses,” may have been the most time consuming given that, once finding the materials, I hand-crafted each rose using reclaimed fabric scraps, tubing and wiring.
I&O: Where did you find your materials, and how difficult was it narrowing down functional parts?
JV: I found several materials from torn down factories where old cash registers and machinery are dropped off and you can shop for parts, which are usually in excess.
I&O: How long does it take you to construct each piece?
JV: On average it takes me about a week or two to make each piece because after finding the material and making sure each piece is actually viable, construction begins and then consultation.
I&O: By consultation do you mean you ask other designers to evaluate your pieces?
JV: Yes and no. No, I don’t ask fellow designers, I ask my wife. She tries on the pieces, tells me what needs to be altered, and then we pick at the piece in the mirror. Finally it’s back to the drawing board until we agree it’s perfect. She’s the brains of the operation, so without her, it is a very difficult process.
I&O: Are these pieces ready to wear? And where can we purchase them?
JV: Yes, they are and you can buy them in Queens at Subdivision at 48-41 Vernon Blvd., or online at www.subboutique.com.
I&O: Now we all know that the “Green Movement” and its key slogan, “Go Green,” is fast becoming a household name in popular culture. Do you think that “going Green” is a trend?
JV: In some ways, I think “going Green” is a trend because of the marketability of the goods and the fact that many things Green are actually sellable and sensible items – it makes the movement easily transcend into pop culture.
I&O: Then is it safe to say that like most things adopted by popular culture, the Green movement will be subject to mass exploitation and possibly may not stick around?
JV: Since “going Green” has become so widespread it can become exploited, but in my opinion, people who are sincere about the Green Movement will stay true to Green and continue leading Green-efficient lifestyles.
I&O: Would you say that you and your wife lead a Green-oriented lifestyle?
JV: Absolutely, as best as we can. Since we live and work out of Queens I ride my bike to work daily. We recycle, we reuse our Ziploc bags, we buy locally and we purchase Green products.