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  • Writer's pictureJanna Coumoundouros

Detroit Design: A Dress Made Out of What?

A Detroit designer has been getting down to her automotive roots, and the results are surprisingly creative and elegant. In what started in Project Runway style, Janna Coumoundouros has been using car interior material to design and make stunningly beautiful evening gowns — a perfect homage to her city and her love of fashion.

The automotive/fashion combination began when Coumoundouros started taking vintage machines apart to get gears and small pieces of metal to use in her jewelry. In 2013, she was invited to participate in a fashion design contest using automotive parts. She had planned on making jewelry for the contest, but they didn’t give her metal parts — they gave her actual car seats made of leather and a material called Inteather™, made by Inteva Products.

“I always wanted to design garments but never really had the chance to devote time to it. I decided this was my time.,” Coumoundouros says. “So I started pinning strips onto a dress form and the next thing I knew, I had a gown.”

She won that contest and was invited to participate in another one with the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Garment Group. “The contest was about the museum’s samurai exhibit and we were to design garments influenced by it. I wanted my design to be different from all the others and I really loved working with the synthetic leather that Inteva makes, so I asked them if I could use it again,” Coumoundouros says. Inteva said yes and also let her use their state-of-the-art sewing lab. She won the contest and also started to develop a theme in her work: Warrior strength combined with elegant beauty.

After the contest, Coumoundouros approached Inteva and asked them if they’d be interested in commissioning dresses made by her for Detroit’s Charity Preview, a prestigious event that brings in millions of dollars for charity at the North American International Auto Show.

Coumoundouros has been designing gowns for Charity Preview for four years and continues to use Inteva’s products in new and creative ways. This year she made a dress for Channel 4 News Reporter Kim DeGiulio to wear to the event. She also had some of Inteva’s car parts shrunk down and printed on their 3-D printer to create jewelry to go with the dress. The necklace was a gear from an engine and the earrings were miniature door handles.

What’s in it for Inteva? It is way to show how their product can bend and move and be sewn around the body, the same way it does around a car interior. It makes people notice it and shows off the stitching capabilities. “What better way to have people come up and want to learn about your product than to have a unique dress at Charity Preview that everyone wants to touch?” says Coumoundouros.

Another of Coumoundouros’ automotive-inspired gowns was on display at the Detroit Historical Museum last year along with her jewelry as part of a past and present Detroit fashion retrospective, alongside Detroit native designers John Varvatos, Anna Sui, and Tracy Reese. Her creative use of machine parts and other recyclable materials has garnered attention from the press and television.

Coumoundouros was the recipient of two prestigious awards in 2014, including the Detroit Institute of Arts Samurai exhibit dress design. She also placed first in the University of Michigan Alumni Art Contest and Exhibit, where she received her degree in Fine Art Photography.

Inteva’s Inteather material is a unique high-performance thermoplastic olefin material (TPO). Today, Inteva’s Inteather is the choice of many automakers for its leather-like feel, luxurious appearance, craftsmanship, formability and long-term durability. Inteather does not fade or degrade under solar UV radiation, offers superior cold performance, is scratch- and mar-resistant, and is 100 percent recyclable.

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