Fashion student wields new meaning to ‘steel wool’

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    By JILL DAVIES

    Fashion design student Brandie Sanchez doesn’t sew her ensembles with a needle and thread. The innovative senior said she prefers nuts and bolts instead of the typical sewing machine.

    “I’ve always gotten a lot of my inspiration at hardware stores,” Sanchez said. “Everyone there is fixing their houses. I’m making costumes.”

    Sanchez has spent the past four months welding, forging and casting 21 steel and aluminum costumes for Saturday’s fashion show. Her collection of metal headdresses is a blend of hefty chunks of steel, delicate steel spirals and layers of aluminum grating. Sanchez said a single guard costume weighs nearly 50 lbs — that’s not including steel kneepads, armbands and a quilted under-suit.

    The process of making such costumes is demanding at best. In order to make the steel malleable, it must be heated until red-hot. Sanchez then either pours the steel into a wax cast or hammers it by hand. Once the steel has hardened, it takes hours of sandpapering to remove the thick crust formed during cooling.

    Sanchez said although the process is difficult, metal has been an ideal medium to create costumes for a cast of villains. “I love evil characters,” she said. “I always route for the bad guy.”

    Her collection, titled “Devarmarche,” includes costumes for a fantastic queen and her guards. Sanchez will portray the queen herself Saturday evening.

    Accentuating the head is a trademark of Sanchez’s designs. “I’m obsessed with framing the head with clothing,” she said. “I like things to be tall, really tall. I picture these huge people walking around.”

    Sanchez has also continued this theme with her costumes made of fabric. Dramatic collars top off suits of flashy purple, orange, turquoise and silver synthetic fabrics. As with her metal work, Sanchez incorporates found objects into her designs, such as conduit tubing down a pant leg. “I find a lot of things from the junk yard,” she said.

    Sanchez said she has focused on costume design rather than fashion design because she knows her ideas aren’t practical. Of course, being impractical has had its challenges.

    “I’m dirty all the time,” said Sanchez. “I’m just filthy, either full of metal shards or burned from welding.” But, she insists, its worth it.

    Sanchez said she loves working with her hands. She remained in Provo over Christmas break solely to focus on her costume work. “We were only required to make five or six pieces,” she said. “But I really wanted to make all the costumes for a movie. I know with costume design you have to push yourself really hard, so that’s what I did.”

    As for the future, Sanchez will graduate in April, but said she hopes to take her hammer and steel with her. “Although I’m in fashion design, I could not leave BYU until I learned metal,” she said.

    Although she considers herself a novice in metal work, through clothing design she feels she can use it to express herself.

    “Clothing is art,” said Sanchez. “I want each piece I make to be art.”

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