A gathering of eco sensualists

A group of eco-focused artisans including FIT grads Zaida Adriana Goveo Balmaseda,  Melissa Kirgan and XZ Chung-Hilyard recently displayed their works at the Manhattan home of prominent fiber artist Abigail Doan. Known for her use of natural fibers and plant materials. Doan, who divides her time between New York, Bulgaria and Italy, describes herself as an “art-farmer.”  

“’Fete for the Senses’ allowed us to create something together while showing who we are as individuals with brands,” said Balmaseda via email. “We had three blissful days to connect, discuss, share with inspiring makers and guests from all sorts of backgrounds, industries and experience, something unforgettable!”

Diningroom table installation at Fetes for the Senses gathering. Photo: Abigail Doan

Balmaseda works with natural dyes and hand-spun yarns. Her “moss formation” dress was on display in one room of Doan’s botanical-scented, spacious apartment. “A lot of my pieces could be described as art, sustainable ‘fashion,’ versatile-reversible wearables, but also labor-intensive examples of handcrafted techniques and new fiber-textile concoctions.”

Zaida Adriana Goveo Balmaseda’s moss formation dress. photo: Jordan Cortese

“It was an event to celebrate the senses and show the work that can provoke the senses in very different, yet somehow connected ways,” said Balmaseda.

Sleeve detail from Zaida Adriana Goveo Balmaseda’s moss formation. Photo: Jordan Cortese

“All of the work included in Fete for the Senses was either handmade, artisan-produced, textile rich, or completely organic in nature”

Trend forecaster and curator Lidewij Edelkoort

 Sometimes it is hard to find platforms to showcase work that helps an audience see and understand different layers,” said Balmaseda. “Fashion events often focus on style trends and marketability. Sustainability events celebrate the ethics of production and alternative business models, the environmental and social impact of the pieces. Textile-craft events usually attract people that appreciate heritage, traditional techniques and innovation. All are wonderful, but do not always allow for a combined picture.”

Zaida Adriana Goveo Balmaseda’s moss formation dress

“New York made me strong, gave me drive and incredible career opportunities,” Balmaseda says on a blog post about a recent knitting session with fellow FIT grads. “It’s incredible how much things have changed since we’ve stopped frequenting the classrooms on 27th street.”

Crystal necklace made by Melissa Kirgan and XZ of Eko-Lab.  Photo: Abigail Doan

“There’s no connection between people and their clothing anymore. It’s very sensual to ingest to bring the design into you.” – Melissa Kirgan

Melissa Kirgan and XZ Chung-Hilyard of Eko-Lab displayed their crystal necklace made of stones wrapped in organic cloth from Goods of Conscience, which is woven with reflective fiber from Guatemala.

“Abigail and I were talking before the Christmas holiday about multi-sensory designs” says Kirgan. “We were inspired to imagine what our designs would taste like. We thought of rock candy. XZ made rock candy for months in her kitchen to get a visual of the crystal. ”

“Rock candy is a little exotic and the coloring is beautiful. We wanted to bring that into the design. I know it’s weird and funny. But it worked out really nicely.”

Detail of Eko-Labs black sesame rock candy. Photo: Abigail Doan

The rope for the necklace was found at the Brooklyn Navy Yard near their studio. “It was a night-before piece! The eucalyptus leaves come from the farmers’ market that we got for the Fete for the Senses journey.”

“It was an intimate setting,” says Assistant Dean Sass Brown who attended fete along with other appreciators of art and craft. “It was a sensitive presentation and a sharing,” said Brown, who is author of “Eco Fashion,” and a leading expert on sustainable fashion design.

“We finished the three day feast sitting on the floor with our last guests while XZ gave a hands on crochet demonstration,” said Balmaseda. “Oh so sweet!”


Both Kirgan and Balmaseda studied in FIT fashion design programs in Italy. XZ Chung-Hilyard is a graphic design grad.

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