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Fast fashion! Designers compete to make outfits from scraps at Style Wars

Hang on: A model wears a dress made out of clothes hangers at Style Wars.
Photo courtesy of House of Diehl

In fashion, one day you’re in, the next day you’re in a Williamsburg bar franticly assembling an outfit from old coat hangers and bubble wrap.

A crazy couture contest is coming to Glasslands on Aug. 13, pitting designers against each other in a live, low-budget take on “Project Runway.” In Style Wars, contestants have just five minutes to construct an outfit out of whatever materials are thrown at them, in what an organizer described as a mash-up of fashion design, rap battling, and dumpster-diving.

“I really wanted to bring the raw energy of emcee battling to the world of fashion,” said M.J. Diehl, one half of the fashion design partnership House of Diehl, and the co-founder of Style Wars. “This is as street style as you can get.”

The show, which has been running in various locations for seven years, is typically structured like a tournament, with designers going head-to-head and the winner advancing to the next round, culminating in a final face-off. But structure is the opposite of the spirit of the event, and the organizers said everything is up in the air on the day — even the number of contestants.

“If people get there and feel like stepping up, let them bring it,” said Roman Milisic, the other half of House of Diehl.

Contestants are given a general theme, and then receive a strange mix of items — past events have included umbrellas, garbage bags, and inflatable pool toys. They then have under five minutes to create an outfit, slap it on a model, and send her down the catwalk.

The crowd is invited to participate, cheering and heckling as the designers try to create an outfit under pressure, and eventually choosing the winners.

The Glasslands show will be a homecoming of sorts for Style Wars. The contest is heavily influenced by the New York hip-hop and street scenes, Diehl said, and the first face-off was held in New York City. But despite bringing the show to five continents since then, it hasn’t been back in town until now.

In the meantime, the battle has taken over makeshift runways in locations as far-flung as Cape Town, South Africa, and London, England, where contestants have included future “Project Runway” designers.

Diehl said she hopes to make Style Wars a semi-regular event in Brooklyn. In addition to the August show, there is already another once scheduled for Sept. 10 at Glasslands. Milisic said they had the opportunity to host the event in Manhattan instead, but ultimately decided Williamsburg was the place to be.

“God knows what kinds of people would show up if we held it in Manhattan,” he said.

Style Wars at Glasslands (289 Kent Ave. between S. First and S. Second streets in Williamsburg, www.theglasslands.com.) Aug. 13 at 8:30 pm. $10.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Recycled: Style Wars outfits must be assembled from eclectic materials — such as this one, made from an old pair of jeans and an ‘I Love New York’ T-shirt.
House of Diehl

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