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Rubber Bands, Man

When the architecture industry suffered a massive blow due to the economy, architect Margarita Mileva turned to upcycling office supplies. Her designs have garnered international attention and she is soon to exhibit at the Wear Is Art fashion show in Berlin. I chatted with Margarita about her design inspiration, why she chose office supplies, and how many rubber bands it took to create a single garment (it's in the thousands). Here's what she had to say.

Margarita Mileva's "RB Dress II" dress will be featured in Berlin's "Wear is Art" fashion show. Photo by Warren Chow.
Margarita Mileva's "RB Dress II" dress will be featured in Berlin's "Wear is Art" fashion show. Photo by Warren Chow.

How did you come to design jewelry and garments?
Personally, I always had an eye for jewelry, and love to design clothes, knit, and do collages. So for me the creation of the M2 line, the jewelry venture of our architectural office, is a continuation of a path that I followed in my life so far. There was also this “sparking” moment when friends of mine invited me to participate in a show, which they organized in their Manhattan loft, and M2 was born. It brings a welcome opportunity for me to experiment with new design challenges, ideas, materials and forms.
Why office supplies?
The architecture profession was so hard-hit, so it started as "recycling" our office. We don't use standard office supplies as much anymore; everything is digital. I thought I could experiment with different paper clips, rubber bands, business cards, mosaic stones, wire binding elements, etc. I initially started creating necklaces and then developed rings from that.
What was the inspiration behind the dress?
I was responding to the "Wear is Art" competition that asked designers to find new and different ways to deal with art movements from the past. I chose Paul Klee (who I have loved for many, many years) and the Bauhaus. For me, the Bauhaus is the most influential design and theoretical movement, which laid the foundation for my understanding and practicing of art and architecture.
What elements of the school were most influential to your design?
Textiles and color theory were very important aspects of the Bauhaus and the dress reflects those interests. The rubberbands have interesting colors and textures. Mathematics and structure were important, too, which is reflected in the underlying structure of the dress. It's made out of strings of ten rubberbands knotted, tangled, and tied together, and are attached to other strings of rubberbands. When I created my first dress I didn't know how many rubberbands were used, so I devised this system to keep track. There are about 14,300 rubberbands in this dress.
Where might one find your designs?
My necklaces in the gift shops at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and at the Houston Center for Contemporary Crafts, and on Etsy.

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