Plastic Man J. Jeffery Hill Makes a Bang with His Bags
Call him the Blass of the Baggie, the Gucci of Glad, the Halston of Hefty. In what may or may not be a giant step forward for fashion, Seattle designer J. Jeffery Hill has put together a line of gowns, coats, tuxes and dresses made entirely from trash and food-storage bags. Hill's clothes are simple, elegant and witty. Besides, they can be used to wrap leftovers.
The idea, says Hill, 28, began as "kind of a joke" a year ago when two friends opening a design firm challenged him to come up with a plastic fashion show to celebrate the occasion. The young interior designer, who had been making his wife Robin's clothes for years, remembers the moment of genesis. "I pulled out a Hefty bag," he says, "stuck it in the sewing machine and waited for things to happen."
What happened was an avant-garde, high-fashion collection. Velcro replaced zippers, ruffled necklines were constructed of Baggies, and within 10 days Hill had turned out 34 pieces, the crowning glory being a wedding dress made of 100 white Hefty bags. "It was crazy but fun," he says. "People liked it."
Hill says the bags can get uncomfortably hot and that he has no intention of marketing them. But that doesn't mean someone else won't. "They'd be a big thing for a short time," speculates Vanessa James, a designer and theatrical painter (Sophie's Choice, Ragtime) who speaks with authority. She recently outfitted an entire 20-person off-Broadway cast at New York's Public Theater in bags, tinfoil and plastic wrap.
Meanwhile Hill's success has persuaded him to stretch his horizons. "I don't want to do just interiors," he says. "I want to be at the top of the design community." In any case, his trash-bag rags will help him escape another winter marinating in the dampness known as Seattle. Come January he may well be in Hawaii—attending a Hefty sales convention.
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