The wedding dress in the corner of Northwest Crossing's Sara Bella Upcycled is white and studded with little flowers. The train is about five feet long and billows out behind the dress.
That's about where the similarities between this wedding dress and all other dresses end.
This one is made from trash. It makes crinkly noises when moved. And it wasn't designed by a fashion house - rather it's the creation of a 17-year-old girl from right here in Bend who has been quietly making a name for herself as an up-and-comer in the fashion design world"I just feel like it's my thing," said Marley Weedman, the primary fabric designer at Sara Bella, which makes bags, wallets and clothes out of recyclable materials like chip bags and other food packaging.
The Mountain View High School senior recently won second place overall in a regional art contest with an edgy unitard she designed and sewed. She's the impetus behind a new line of fashion curriculum at Mountain View, which visual arts instructor Shannon Carroll said was created because of Weedman's drive. And the 6'1'' student, who also does some modeling, just learned she's been admitted to the Pacific Northwest College of Art, which admits only half the applicants seeking admission.
"I think that what she does is pretty exceptional," said Karlin Hedin, a professional seamstress who sews Weedman's fabrics into the pieces sold at Sara Bella. "She's good at color, not everybody has that talent."
When it comes to fashion, it doesn't get much more 'art meets function' than the pieces at Sara Bella Upcycled, and it's Weedman who brings the two together. Her work at the shop begins with donated materials at Sara Bella's workspace, which, with large windows, lofted ceilings and exposed silver ductwork feels like a creative and industrial space.
Keeping an eye out for colors and designs on the recycled materials that will yield interesting patterns, she'll trim dog food sacks and plastic shopping bags into rectangles. From there, Weedman will cut sections from other bags and seal them onto these rectangles with a giant hot press that looks like a big a waffle iron. In essence, she's making her own fabrics, and no two are alike.
Her work with colors and patterns, shapes and styles makes her a standout in her fashion design classes at Mountain View. The comments from her instructor go like this:
"Thanks for being patient in this class. Your skills are far above a high school art student," or "Marley, your lines, texture and overall designs are fantastic - college level."
It's clear that she also has the drive to match her talent. In the last year, Weedman was the artistic director of "Drinks on Bend," which was a benefit to raise money for clean water efforts in Tanzania. She was an intern with Pepsi this summer. She sings in her high school choir. She's a swimmer on Mountain View's swim team - as a junior she won first place in the mile out of competitors from 15 states. And she coaches swimming with the Bend Swim Club for three-to five-year-olds. And her GPA this year is a 3.8.
It's not the talent and the accolades that make Weedman so remarkable - it's that she's done all these things of her own volition. Her parents - whom Weedman described as hippies, hence her name - are supportive of her activities, but have never pushed her to pursue these activities. She'll be the first person in her family to go to college.
For now, Weedman is focused on the next design. And who knows, maybe you're holding the fabric in your hand right now.
"It's fun to take something worthless and make it into something cool," said Weedman.