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Fashioning a future 

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Dozens of tattered books, with pages that were turned one too many times, will be diverted from the recycling bin and instead sewn into clothing by local teenagers for the New Hanover County Public Library’s Fashion Design Contest.

Scooter Hayes, Myrtle Grove Youth Services Librarian and event organizer, is quick to admit he is not the most fashionable dude at the library, but he recognized a great idea to get teens engaged when he read about a similar event organized by the New York Public Library. He knew he had to try it.

“Even though I have trouble getting dressed in the morning and figuring out what to wear to work, I thought this could be a possible hit for teens,” Hayes said. “I’m confident it will be.”

As a youth services librarian, Hayes is responsible for engaging library users from birth to 18 years old. Story time easily draws in younger children, he said, but encouraging teenagers to hang out at the library requires a more creative approach.

“My co-worker, Mr. Max [Nunez], always says teens are like a mythological entity. We never see them at the library,” Hayes said.

Operating outside of his comfort zone, Hayes sifted through his network of friends and community contacts to plan the event, procuring two tickets to the N.C. State University College of Design’s Art2Wear fashion show for the first-place winner and finding three judges with backgrounds in fashion to pick the winners.

“It’s not just me, some random dude, picking which one I like the best. It’s legit judges who have a fashion background and fashion credentials,” he said. Hayes, whose YouTube rap video on the Dewey Decimal System has netted more than 1 million views, will DJ and announce the teens as they model their creations at the Northeast Regional Library Tuesday, Feb. 24.

But first, participants must attend three meetings before the show, picking up the old books on Feb. 3 and submitting a runway bio on Feb. 10 at the Myrtle Grove branch, then participating in a dress rehearsal at the Northeast Regional Library on Feb. 17.

Thirteen-year-old Alexia Lopez and 15-year-old Hannah Foy are already refining their ideas for the contest. Both girls are planning to create Victorian Gothic-inspired dresses, an idea Lopez developed from a music video featuring a gothic masquerade. She said she is excited to combine many of her interests, including music, reading and fashion.

“I’ve always loved books, so it was a perfect mix. I had inspiration from everything, from music, and of course, reading books like older poetry. It all came together,” Lopez said. She has begun upcycling an old pageant dress, detaching the corset and tulle skirt as a base, which will be overlaid with fabric and book pages. Her mom, Kim Lopez, who runs a sewing and embroidery business out of her house, is helping her figure out how to transform her ideas into a real dress, a process she expects to be fun and educational for her daughter.

“She’s very creative and she’s very artistic. This is teaching her what I’ve always tried telling her in the past: you’re artistic, but that doesn’t just mean you can draw and paint. You have creative ideas you can put into other things,” Kim Lopez said. “Teaching her to do that with fabric, and with books and paper, is just expanding her artistic knowledge.”

Foy, who drew her inspiration from the writings of Edgar Allen Poe, said sewing isn’t her favorite thing to do, but she likes to sketch fashion designs and is excited for the opportunity to turn her pictures into something real.

“I’m just really excited to be able to put this thing together,” Foy said. “I usually wouldn’t be able to put it together. It’d just be ideas in my head and drawing it. But now I can put it together and show it to people.”

Teens ages 13 to 18 are eligible to enter the fashion design contest, individually or in teams of two. All interested teens are required to sign up at Myrtle Grove Library at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 3, where they will review the contest rules and receive old books to use.

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