Celeste Malvar-Stewart Brings Sustainable Style to FMMF

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Columbus' Fashion Meets Music Festival (FMMF) returns Sept. 5 and 6 in Downtown Columbus. Though the musical lineup's been making waves, we're more excited to see the fashions coming down the runways. We spoke with Celeste Malvar-Stewart, a local designer and FMMF contributor who will be showcasing her most recent work in the Fashion Tent on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Here's a peek at what she has planned.

I will be debuting more than just a collection-it's called the Local Sound project, which is a collaboration with local musician Benji Robinson of Reptile Fiction. This project started off by us asking, "What does Columbus sound like? I'm fairly new to Columbus, and this all happened on a plane ride back from San Francisco. I realized I didn't yet know the sound of the city that was supposed to be my new home. I had this great discussion with Benji, and then he went around the city and recorded different sounds in different neighborhoods. And then, he incorporated it into his music. He wrote eight songs for an album, and I'm creating eight couture pieces inspired by the music. (The garments) actually feature the sound waves from the songs; he'd write portions of each song and then show me the sound waves that have the most interesting visual movement. And then I selected segments according to how they worked with the designs. He'll be playing the music on the runway, so you'll hear and see the music at once.

I am really, really excited. I think that this year will really set a precedent for the fashion scene in Columbus … there just hasn't really been anything like this before. On the fifth alone, there will be 15 fashion shows every hour. It's just going to be an amazing dynamic, not even comparable to last year.

A Sustainable Promise

Malvar-Stewart's known for working with vintage fabrics and sustainably sourced materials, making her one of the few designers in town doing as much good for the planet as they are style.

"It's about introducing Columbus to this idea of sustainable high fashion, because I know we're known for it here … but no one is really doing this high fashion with sustainability in mind," she explains. "I want to emphasize that (high fashion) can be done with a very small carbon footprint."

As for her definition of sustainability, the designer defines her design philosophy as one that's sustainable from start to finish. "I am sustainable from the raw materials all the way to the end of the lifecycle of each garment," she says. "You could throw my garments into a landfill, and it's like 99 percent, if not completely, biodegradable. But it's still really beautiful fashion."

Locally, Malvar-Stewart works with Cutmaps (laser-cutting) and Prairie Fields Farm (wool), and she uses natural dyes for all her garments. And then red in the gown shown here? That's obtained by using "these little insects they used in Ancient Rome to dye fabrics," she says. "It's called Roman Red."

Photo by Tariq Tarey