Eco-Conscious Fashion Designer Celeste Malvar-Stewart Uses Fibers From Ohio Farms
Designer Celeste Malvar-Stewart is creating interior wear and apparel that will not harm the environment. Although Malvar-Stewart had a love of art and fibers from a young age, she did not realize she could combine the two into a career until she studied fashion in London. While there, she realized she had a different approach than most. She saw art in fashion, and chased that passion until she found her calling as a fiber artist. Sensing the up-and-coming feel of Columbus and the growing fashion market, Malvar-Stewart and her husband moved to Columbus and have called it home for the past five years.
Most of Malvar-Stewart’s design ideas come from a need to address problems and issues in our society today through sustainable and ethical design. Whether that is creating usable textiles or wearable apparel for a collection or display, she strives for every project to serve its purpose of making the world a little better. Recently she collaborated to create a line capturing local sounds and transferring the sound waves onto fabric. She wanted to give her audience ownership of their city and its distinct sounds. Pieces of this collection will be on display at the Columbus Museum of Art this fall, complete with interactive exhibits for children. The rest of the installment at CMA will be her collection of interior wear. Born from a desire for chemical-free fabrics in public spaces, Malvar-Stewart is creating pillows, rugs, bowls, bags, accessories, planter pods, and laundry balls that will be available to be experienced at CMA, with some items available for purchase in their gift shop.
Conscious of the carbon footprint of our textile industry, she wanted to do her part to minimize not only the unfair and unsafe labor of factory-produced textiles, but the waste left behind as well. One of her greatest moments of inspiration came from finding a pair of blue jeans in a friend’s garbage bin and realizing those fibers were going to take up space in a landfill when they could be used to create something new instead. Not fully understanding where the journey would take her, Malvar-Stewart began collecting unwanted jeans and deconstructing them. Out of those fibers, she wove new articles that give renewed life to the old jeans. Different from cutting up jeans and repurposing large chunks of denim, Malvar-Stewart took the jeans apart fiber by fiber to create a new material that could be felted into an object such as a skirt, pillow, or rug.
In keeping with her eco-friendly designs, Malvar-Stewart uses only natural items for dyes for her fabrics. Flowers, iron water, eucalyptus, and cochineal extract are all commonly used to dye fabrics into vibrant colors. Different elements are combined to create distinct colors, and different techniques are used to create color variations.
Malvar-Stewart battles the disconnect between local fibers and high-end fashion. Consumers usually associate local fibers such as wool and fur with coats and scarves. Malvar-Stewart is using those local fibers to create stereotype-breaking fabrics. She visits local farms on shearing day for alpacas and sheep, and collects the fibers to be used in her studio. She then felts and weaves the fibers into articles such as pillows, blankets, rugs, bowls, and apparel. What makes Malvar-Stewart’s approach unique is the way she knows all of the animals’ names and can tell her audience where the fibers in each specific item she creates come from. Walking around her studio, she will point to a rug and tell you the hair is from an Angora goat named Sugar, or that a bowl was constructed out of hair from an old Alpaca named Jetta Rose.
Malvar-Stewart’s studio, Hangar 391, is located at 391 E. Livingston Ave. More information about her process and regular updates on projects can be found on her website, malvarstewart.com, and on her social media.