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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
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By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

Floral fashion inspired by Billy Porter fills Phipps Conservatory

A+gold+costume+hovers+above+a+pond+of+blue+water+in+the+Victoria+Room+of+the+Phipps+Conservatory.+
Kaylee Uribe | Staff Photographer
A gold costume hovers above a pond of blue water in the Victoria Room of the Phipps Conservatory.

Lettuce ball gowns, corsets made of leaves, and vine-woven crowns astonished the visitors of Phipps Conservatory as they walked through the summer show “Flowers Meet Fashion: Inspired by Billy Porter.” 

Since May and through September 24, Phipps Conservatory has its doors open for a show that features horticultural displays and fashion designs inspired by Billy Porter’s Pittsburgh roots and array of accomplishments as an award-winning actor, singer, director, composer and playwright.  

Jordyn Melino, the associate director of exhibits at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, said many artists contributed their creativity to make the show happen. The show is a way for artists in different stages of their careers to showcase their designs. 

“We have 13 pieces in this show, four made by Phipps staff, six are made by local and regional designers, and three pieces by Carnegie Mellon University students,” Melino said. “We have partnerships with both CMU and CAPA, which are Billy Porters’ alumni, and we wanted to highlight the creativity of students here in Pittsburgh. We have eight hats submitted and on display by elementary to high school students.” 

The pieces in the show include gowns, suits, boots, hats, capes and many more fashion pieces that bring the looks to life. Some of the creative designs include a skirt made from lilac hydrangea heads and grape vines hugging the bodice of a dress made from dried salal leaves

Melino also said the show is the product of the efforts of many talented artists. Melino believes the input of the artists not only brings the work of Billy Porter to life but also captures the talent of the artists through their pieces. 

“Each designer implemented some of their aspects into the pieces,” Melino said. “You’ll see very personal elements to each of the pieces but again inspired by those iconic looks by Billy Porter.” 

According to Melino, the designs and creativity of the show are the result of two years of effort. Melino said Billy Porter supports those working around him. 

“Billy Porter was here in 2021. We approached him about partnering on an upcoming show and he said ‘Yes, of course!’” Melino said. “You can feel the sense of uplifting everyone when you’re around him and we wanted that to be a part of the energy when we worked on the show.”

Stephany Andrade, a Pitt sophomore applied developmental psychology major, said the show made a significant contribution to society beyond fashion and art. 

“As a Latinx woman who identifies themselves with the LGBTQIA+ community, the show was heartwarming,” Andrade said. “Having a Billy Porter-dedicated show at our own Phipps Conservatory is a huge step forward in the representation of diversity in Pittsburgh.” 

Pitt students are not the only visitors who have an appreciation for the growth of Pittsburgh’s art and fashion scenes and the local promotion of diversity and inclusion. Lucio Maffei, a senior political philosophy and ethics major at Syracuse University, enjoys the inclusivity Phipps is aiming to achieve. 

“As someone who studies philosophy and the intersections of art and society, I am very happy to see Pittsburgh showcasing and amplifying powerful Black and queer art and artists,” Maffei said. 

According to Melino, the show is new territory for Phipps. It’s a show focused on being vibrant and radiant using flowers as the main element to push positivity. Melino said the show’s details are something that took a lot of consideration, even down to the details of music and colors surrounding the looks.  

“The show feels very different from other shows we’ve put on,” Melino said. “It’s very fun, fresh, and fabulous!” 

About the Contributor
Nada Abdulaziz, Senior Staff Writer
Nada Abdulaziz is a senior majoring in Philosophy and Biological Sciences. She loves spending her free time reading, hiking, and watching Studio Ghibli films.