The gown, titled “Resplendent Sunrise”, depicts his painted image of seven life-sized angels. Each angel represents a continent, all united under the same sun. The gown, replete with a stunning 13 ft-long cathedral train, glows with the colors of a fiery sunrise. Novelline explains the meaning behind the brilliant colors is “to breathe a glimmer of art, love, joy, and hope into a recovering, post-pandemic New York and world.”
What was once leftover fabric from the fashion industry that would have been sent to a landfill has been given new life as a one-of-kind work of art, going to show that style and sustainability can go hand-in-hand.
Zelouf Fabrics: Tell us about the inspiration behind this project.
Ryan Jude Novelline: As a trained fine art painter, I am always exploring ways to incorporate illustrative painting into practical design. And angels have always been powerful symbols of strength and guidance for me. The initial idea for this gown has been floating around my head for some years. But despite having the vision, I lacked the resources to fully execute the dress until now with Zelouf's assistance. Considering the pandemic strife that we have all endured, it also felt like the right time to make a gown focused around hope.
ZF: We’ve certainly never seen a gown like this before, how did you come up with the idea for such an ambitious design?
RJN: The aesthetic was inspired by the fresco ceilings of European palaces and churches - notably one particular work in Austria. I love that painters create a full experience for the viewer with every stroke of pigment. Fashion design passes through many hands before eventually being worn. Sometimes the designers themselves are satisfied with the result and other times not. I wanted to create a gown that combined my trained eye for art with my technical knowledge of sewing. This is the third time I've created this type of massive-scale painterly dress. The first attempt was called "Beyond Blue", and I brought it to New York Comic Con in 2017. And that gown later traveled from New York to Singapore to Beijing. I learned a lot about maneuvering massive dresses.
ZF: Tell us about your creative process when designing a gown of this magnitude?
RJN: My creative and construction process would seem highly disorganized to a technical sewer or commercial designer who is accustomed to clear roadmaps. I plan it out in my mind as closely as possible, but then it just plays out however it wants to. Because I often do most of the construction myself at such a large scale, I need to simplify complicated processes into alternative methods that make sense to me. And then I make mistakes and learn from them along the way.
ZF: What made you choose our tricot lycra velvet?
RJN: Just from the free swatch that you sent, I was captivated by the velvet's sumptuous luster, soft hand, and vibrant colors. I knew that it would showcase the artwork with full vibrancy. Velvet also has a rich history among royal wardrobes.
ZF: Your original artwork is stunning, what was your process like for the painting?
RJN: With limited time to produce the painting, I found a fresco with an appealing composition that I used as a starting point. I then adapted the composition to accomodate my new canvas, and repainted the illustration on my Wacom Cintique specifically for this gown. I am a fine art painter and conceptual artist by trade, so this part is just me in my comfort zone. The dressmaking is more challenging to me. I did not go to school for fashion design. But that's another story.
ZF: Everyone at our New Jersey warehouse was so excited to print your design because it was so unique, how do you feel the print turned out?
RJN: The print itself was exquisite. Custom prints of this type of epic scale and scope are nail-biting, because there is not usually any type of test run for colors or image quality. It's too costly and there's always a time crunch. I do a lot of math and formatting on my end, and then just hope it was all correct. The warehouse executed flawlessly! I made a mistake on my second gown for NYCC 2019, and one of the panels was a few inches too large. It was painful to scrunch it up to align with the rest of the print.
ZF: How long did it take you to complete this gown?
RJN: The painting took about a week and then the construction lasted another week. I commissioned the elliptical crinoline from another artist on Etsy and reused one of my own tulle petticoats. But the concept to create this dress was refining itself in my head for many months prior to Zelouf. But you finally gave me the opportunity to realize it, and I'm quite grateful.
ZF: What is your favorite part about this gown?
RJN: My goal was to create the illusion of a palatial fresco moving in space. And after seeing the photos we took outside on the stairs of the Met Museum, I feel like I successfully achieved that. That's my favorite part.
ZF: You are a very impressive designer, how long have you been sewing?
RJN: Thank you. I took one, intense sewing and drafting fundamentals course in my fine art undergrad at RISD. And then I interned for a prolific fashion company in New York City leading up to NYFW and then a tailor in Boston. I learned I wasn't cut out for tailoring nor New York City. I only made a few dresses in the next decade-one was made of paper for Maisie Williams that ended up in Vogue Spain and Mexico. Last year, I relocated across the country thinking I was done with sewing altogether. I gave away all of my trims, fabrics, mannequins, etc. But then my TikTok unexpectedly exploded, and suddenly there was a huge demand for my dresses. And here I am.
ZF: What sort of projects can we expect from you in the future?
RJN: For the past year, I have been e-meeting a lot of brilliant content creators in the fashion space on various platforms. So I have been lining up a lot of exciting dressmaking collaborations for my YouTube channel. I will be explaining how I make creative decisions as a designer and construct my dresses.
ZF: It was such a pleasure working with you on this process, thanks again so much for all your hard work! Where can people find you if they want to see more of your incredible creations?
RJN: It was wonderful working with you as well! Thank you again for reaching out to me and helping realize this colorful vision with your wonderful fabrics. You can find me on all social platforms through my Linktree link. For any specific questions, I recommend joining my private Discord channel that I interact with daily.
Gown is worn by Queen Astraea.