2016-03-10 / Front Page

Rogers Alum Brings Duct Tape Glam to Fundraiser

By Betsy Sherman Walker

“Oh God, prom,” says Hayley Pires, when asked about her high school prom dress experiences. “For my junior prom I felt like, ‘I don’t know why my mother let me out of the house.’ The top did not fit right, and I wish it had been more age-appropriate. For my senior prom, I walked into the store, asked for a dress that fit, and called it a day. “It was simple and green,” she adds, “and I kept it classy.”

Pires, a 2010 graduate of Rogers High School, is now hard at work fashioning a busy career in New York City in the world of product and brand design. Her senior project at Rogers, through the MUSE program at the Newport Art Museum, was to design a line of dresses made entirely of duct tape. (One of which is pictured at right). They were a huge success – labeled “outré, cool, and hip” in the words of one reporter who attended the fashion show – and became part of her successful application portfolio for the Fashion Institute of Technology, from which she graduated in 2014 with a degree in packaging design.

The girl with the classy dress will be returning to her home turf when her gowns will be among the fashions featured in “A Night to Remember,” a March 24 fundraiser at the Newport Art Museum to benefit the Rogers High

School 2016 prom. Coming down the runway will be a combination of high-end, off-the-rack garments from local clothiers as well as selections by two designers whose work is anything but. One is Maria

Del Carmen Mercado, a

Providence-based designer, whose specialty is one-of-a-kind formals and semi-formals.

The other is Pires. By day, at her job with branding studio Safari Sundays, the Rogers alum works on branding products and package design for clients such as PepsiCo, Campari, and Madison Square Garden. (She recently had a canned-goods project featured on The Dieline, an industry blog dedicated to defining and highlighting examples of “the world’s best” package designs.) By night, and whenever there is free time, she follows her creative instincts – and her first passion. “After about a year in the field,” she recently commented on a fashion blog, “I missed the physical part of making things with my hands. I began to make dresses again.”

Years later, duct tape remains her “fabric” of choice. “I wouldn’t consider myself a seamstress at all,” she tells Newport This Week. “I’m more of a sculptor. There’s no stitching, sewing anything. I don’t cover fabric,” she explains. “My dresses are 100 percent duct tape. Every dress has custom sizes and dimensions. I create them with as little math as possible and hope for the best.”

Pires’ recent designs fast-tracked to the red carpet last November when one of her dresses was worn by the drag queen Champagne Bubbles (pictured at left) at the 17th annual Glammy Awards, a popular gala that celebrates the best of the best in New York City’s LGBT nightlife. She’s excited to be bringing those dresses to Newport for the March 24 event.

“I’m going to feature the three [from last fall], but I also threw together a little mini-collection that represents more of my style today as a designer, so there will be two totally different looks. It’s going to be,” she adds, “pretty cool!”

When asked if she has a favorite thing on her long list of creations, Pires’ response is that “it just keeps changing. I keep doing things that are cooler than before. My Glammys gown was my favorite thing so far,” she says. “It was definitely the most interesting process from start to finish. But now, with some of the things I’m working on, I think there might be some new front-runners!”

From prêt-à-porter to bespoke, for those who follow the world of couture – haute and otherwise – and the wheels that turn it, the “Night” at the museum should be a great gala, and all for a good cause. Making prom night accessible to all is as classy as it gets.

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