Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Elephant In The Dressing Room

Dayna and her dress on display at the Ilus New York Boutique. Photo from

I met textile artist/designer Dayna Johnson at the Ilus New York boutique the other night. I was complimenting a great dress on a mannequin near the door and Dayna said, "Yeah, I designed that dress." I love meeting the creators of gorgeous things, so I was sufficiently impressed and satisfied to talk about her design inspiration. I was even more impressed when Dayna told me that her dress was the winning entry in Ilus' It Holiday Dress Design Competition. But, then she said, "The fabric is painted by elephants." I think I made one of my classic wow/really/huh? faces and Dayna was nice enough to fill me in on the elephant in the room.

A little while back Dayna got involved with the Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project (AEACP) which hosts a variety of events to help raise awareness and support for the diminishing Asian Elephant population. In Asia there is a cultural tradition of domesticating elephants, and the elephants' caretakers often put them to work to help generate funds for their care. Increasingly the elephants have been forced to perform illegal jobs such as dangerous logging expeditions and street begging. Sounds like a hip-hop song in the making. In order to help keep the elephants from hustling on the streets, AEACP's goal is to put the elephants to work in productive, healthy ways so that they can hold their trunks up high. So, they help the elephants express their creative sides.

Yes, there is a camp in Thailand where domesticated elephants go to paint. They make beautiful, unique works of art under the guidance of their caretakers and art teachers. The works are sold not for profit, but for care. Dayna visited the camp and had the elephants paint on eco-friendly fabrics that she then used in her dress designs.

Dayna's dress from THE TRUNK SHOW. Photo by Amy Postle Photography.

Her work, as well as the work of many other clothing designers, was featured in THE TRUNK SHOW in New York back in Ocotber. All of the gorgeous garments that walked the runway were a collaboration between elephant and artist. Now, these elephants are no slouches. Take a look at some of their paintings:

That's a self-portrait on the left. Pretty amazing. You can see more elephant art work here and if you are interested in owning your own Dayna/elephant creation you can contact her via her website:

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