Ormond Beach resident Gail Warner creates Halloween costumes and runway fashion out of upcycled material.
Whenever an idea pops into Ormond Beach resident Gail Warner's head, she has to see it through.
For the past five years, she has been creating wearable art for runway fundraisers and Halloween costumes for her and her husband, Greg, out of upcycled materials. After spending more than 22 years in the aerospace and defense industry when she ran international corporate communications teams, she said she was initially taught that creativity was considered a liability. Now, despite not having a sewing or arts background, Warner has let her passion take control.
“I actually consider what I don’t know to be an asset because nothing scares me,” Warner said.
Whether it is a skirt made out of plastic water bottles or a necklace made out of CD's, Warner said she can do anything with zip ties, staples and a hot glue gun — and she's never had a wardrobe malfunction on the runway or at her friend Fred Sergeant's annual Halloween party at his home in Daytona Beach Shores, which Warner described is "epic."
Warner first started creating costumes out of upcycled when she and her husband lived in South Carolina. They lived in a neighborhood filled with many young couples and their small children, and every year for Halloween they would flood the streets trick-or-treating. Warner estimates that they would give out candy to about 350 children in one night.
“We would look down our street and there would still be like mobs of children," Warner said.
Seeing as Halloween is their favorite holiday, they would also dress up for the kids, though it was usually something small like wearing horns or cat ears. What inspired her to start making her own costumes was seeing the homemade ones moms would make for the kids.
“Then we were like, well this is good stuff," Warner said. "We’re going to have to up our game.”
And they did.
The couple has lived in Ormond Beach for three years and have attended Sergeant's annual Halloween Party dressed as a take-out side of rice and a sushi roll, red wine and a cork screw and this year, they came as DJ Dingo Luv, named after their beloved
dog, and vintage vinyl. They have won "Best Original Costumes" each year.
For her costume, Warner used old vinyl records and 45s to create a skirt, which she put together using zip ties.
Since she tries her best not to buy anything, to obtain the records, Warner put out a notice on Nextdoor, a private neighborhood social network. One woman brought her 70 vintage albums and about 25-30 45s, which were more than enough for what she needed.
This is one example on how the community and her nearby neighbors have helped her with her costumes and runway art pieces. She said her neighbors know not to throw anything away before talking to her.
While Halloween costumes are fun, Warner also enjoys creating wearable art for runway fundraisers. She started doing this after she and her friend saw a upcycled runway show in Charlotte.
“The stuff that was walking the runway was phenomenal," Warner said.
There was no news organizations covering the event, so she turned to her friend and said they were going to do two things: get reporters to see what was going on and that they would participate next year in the same show.
Since then, she has created wearable art out of paper towel rolls, orange construction fencing and reflective silver placemats. On her dress form these days is a creation she calls "Bottled Up," which consists of a skirt made out of two-months worth of plastic water bottles.
She accumulated them herself, saving them from when she used them at the gym about three times a week. Her intention with the runway pieces is to give people pause and start conversations.
"To me, what is the most sobering is how quickly I’m able to accumulate whatever I need," Warner said.
After the runway shows, people can approach to the models and see up close what the pieces are made of. This is Warner's favorite part. She wants to show people the amount of materials people use on a daily basis and never think twice about.
“Just because a truck comes and takes it away doesn’t mean it leaves this Earth," Warner said.