McCoy: A stitch in time with artist Abbey Arabie
March 1, 2016
When I met with Abbey Arabie outside her new sewing shop, she had just swept in fresh from a yoga class (she teaches inside the shop and at other places throughout Grand County).
"There's art in finding balance," she said.
Lavender and elephants: they are two of her favorite things, and the reasoning behind her new Winter Park business name. It doesn't explain very much, but Arabie delights in the fact that it "feeds the curiosity."
The elephant symbol was inspired by an ink print her maternal aunt gave her, and lavender, the color and the essential oil, is very calming. "I love lavender and I love elephants," the seamstress extraordinaire said, "and I put them together."
The elephant symbol was inspired by an ink print her maternal aunt gave her, and lavender, the color and the essential oil, is very calming. “I love lavender and I love elephants,” the seamstress extraordinaire said, “and I put them together.”
Tucked beyond a stage area that serves a variety of functions, I usually find Arabie poised in front of her industrial double-walking Kingmax sewing machine. She admits to catching television show "Project Runway," a guilty pleasure, too, while she works on projects.
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A rainbow of bobbins, swatches and fabrics surround her, waiting for their chance at new life. She is the owner, designer, and main teacher at the Lavender Elephant, and her business savvy is quilted together in a variety other areas.
"No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence." – Martin Luther King Jr.
It's a quote on her website that describes Arabie to a tee.
The Lavender Elephant, which opened this past August, offers clothing design and "amazing, high-quality" alterations, vintage restorations, and up-cycling.
Arabie, soon to be a bride herself this summer, is working on developing an eco-friendly craft bridal collection, her piece de resistance. Each gown is 95 percent upcycled from second-hand materials, termed as "resourceful textile use". Twelve pieces will be featured at the La Da Vinci Fashion Show tomorrow, Thursday, March 3 at Cooper Creek Square in Winter Park.
The 2nd-annual event and dance party, with DJ Keith, also includes pieces from Andreas Tsagas Furs and Leather, Gosia Rafacz' Be … Boutique, and other guest designers.
Being sustainable is expensive, she said, "However, every fashion show gets me closer to the chance to create my dream collection." A week following, Arabie goes on to New Orleans' Fashion Week, where her work will be catching the eyes of companies like Dillards and JC Penny.
Through yoga and meditation, healing touch and energy treatments, birthing coach (Doula) and horsemanship services, Arabie offers physical, emotional and informational support. "I provide people with the tools they need to live an enriched, healthy life." Her business motto: "exploring the magical possibilities of eco-friendly goods and creative self-discovery."
First and foremost, she has "the passion to bring the apparel industry to a new production standard." "Awakened" by the "over-production of the fast fashion industry," Arabie set out on her own, she admits, with her heart on her sleeve. She "blindly ventured into the Rocky Mountains" after a year of the city and fashion industry life in Los Angeles, Calif. A friend had suggested she come to Grand County to recuperate and the area blended with Arabie in a harmonious rhythm. She's even recently received accolades for her artistry and business sense.
Home was St. Tammany Parish, near New Orleans, Louisiana, a place where she developed her "personable" nature, Arabie says. By simply finding out what the customer wants, "You can really make a difference in people's lives and be successful," she said. "The best thing I've done is not jump too far, and just listen to the consumers."
Arabie has partnered with the Fraser Recreation District in several endeavors. Half of the proceeds from her Fashion for Change calendar goes to the district, and she is putting together a youth horsemanship camp in July and August this summer.
Several other local artists, including the team at O2 Creative, have helped Arabie with the calendar. Instructors lend a hand along the way. "I feel so fortunate to have so many mentors in town," she said.
Her versatile studio space, available for rental, also serves as a gathering place for creative labs and art workshops.
"I've let it grow on its own," Arabie said. "It's definitely taken on a life."
There's Beads & Babes every first Monday, series Creating the Way each first Wednesday (including a creativity and empowerment meditation with Pat Jacques 6-8 p.m. today, March 2), and a yoga jam (with DJ Shane Duncan, and other guest live musicians) every full moon. A New Moon sound healing therapy gathering with Molly Lucido is set for next Tuesday, March 8.
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