Alyssa Hertz is used to working with offbeat materials when designing dresses.

Newspaper? Check.

Styrofoam? Check.

And now hundreds upon hundreds of DVD Netflix envelopes.

The 19-year-old Copley Township resident and sophomore at the Kent State University Fashion School created a one-of-a-kind dress out of more than 1,500 red-and-white packaging envelopes that once contained DVDs. Where in the world do you get your hands on so many envelopes? A huge Netflix fan, of course.

Akron resident Joanna Wilson had saved the envelopes for more than a decade and the company, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, took notice of her massive collection on social media and agreed to help fulfill Wilson's dream of turning them into a dress one day.

DVD Netflix unveiled the full-length gown online Monday at http://blog.dvd.netflix.com/new-dvd-releases/dvd-netflix-dress. The gown, inspired by Rosemary Clooney's outfit in the finale of the film "White Christmas," features 526 paper roses attached to the layered envelopes and includes full-length sleeves. There's also a matching headband.

"I love making these," Hertz said Monday about the unconventional outfit. "My friends always ask me, 'Why do you do it?' I say because this is what I want to do. I want to do fashion and art."

Without Wilson, a Christmas entertainment writer and author of the book "Tis the Season TV: The Encyclopedia of Christmas-Themed Episodes, Specials and Made-for-TV Movies," there would be no dress. She subscribed to Netflix in 2005 and started saving the envelopes after taking notice of their texture. She was determined to craft them into something someday.

"I never quite followed through on that craft and I just kept saving them," she said.

After 13 years, she had amassed more than 1,500. She shared a photo of all the envelopes with the company earlier this year as part of DVD Netflix's anniversary promotions. When the company learned about her goal of creating a dress, it told her to go for it and provided money for the materials and a designer's time.

Following a WKYC (Channel 3) story about her collection, Wilson put out a call for designers to help her. About 20 responded, with Hertz getting the nod.

"She was articulate. She was confident. And she already had experience with nontraditional materials," Wilson said. "Alyssa's experience and passion for this project really stood out."

Last year, Hertz was featured on the NBC "Today Show" after creating a wedding dress made of Styrofoam. Hertz also had previously designed a dress made of newspapers.

Each unconventional dress presents its own set of challenges. The DVD Netflix gown was no different.

Hertz noted that it took her 10 minutes to create the first rose that provides the detailing on the gown. Eventually, she was able to complete a single rose in a minute. But it still took her more than two months to put together the entire dress.

"Every dress I do, I learn something more about fashion and something more about me," Hertz said. "It's such an honor to be chosen to have the dress be sponsored by such a huge name. Everybody knows Netflix."

She also enjoyed working with Wilson. Hertz had made previous dresses for herself and her friends. This was the first time she worked with a client.

Wilson was overwhelmed with emotion the first time that she saw the dress.

"It is gorgeous," she said. "The detail is breathtaking. She clearly put in a lot of hard work."

Wilson, Hertz and others traveled to the Rosemary Clooney House museum last month for a photo shoot for the dress. The reaction from others was precious.

"Everybody was coming over and wanted to know the story," Wilson said. "Clearly, this dress isn't your average dress. There's a story here."

Wilson won't be wearing the dress out on the town anytime soon. It takes five people to help her get into it. Despite being made of paper, it's also quite heavy.

As for what happens to the gown now, both Wilson and Hertz hope that it will go on display somewhere, perhaps at Kent State or the Rosemary Clooney House.

"It does no good sitting in a closet," said Wilson, who owns the dress. "I want to show off Alyssa's hard work."

 

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.