Paper or Prada?: Fashion designer creates gown of newspapers to stand as testament to fashion, creative expression

Lashanda White-Owens

Twenty dollars worth of newspapers and a vision were the only things local fashion designer Lashanda White-Owens needed to create a statement piece worthy of rivaling the most eccentric fashion icons.

Lady Gaga may have ridden into the 2013 American Music Awards on a fake white horse in a Versace dress, but even the fashion legend herself has never worn a dress made entirely of newspapers and tape.

White-Owens, a Noxubee County native, moved to Columbus in 2009. She briefly worked for a construction company before devoting herself to her husband, children and a passion for sewing.

“I have been sewing for six years now,” White-Owens said. “Two years ago, I got more serious about it and started making handmade fashion.”

As a young fashion designer with a knack for entrepreneurship, White-Owens opened her own business, Luxe Code by Shun White, in 2019.

With a new space to create and plenty of ideas, she immediately threw herself into crafting creative clothing lines for women.

For the last three years, she has worked on designing and promoting her business until a Facebook post three days ago changed it all.

Tamaka “LilJones” Jones models fashion designer Lashanda White-Owens’ gown made out of Commercial Dispatch newspapers. Courtesy photo/Mayfield Photography

On Monday, White-Owens uploaded a series of images to Facebook from her latest fashion design. Model Tamaka “LilJones” Jones — owner of Salon 220 — stood outside of The Commercial Dispatch styled in the visionary’s latest creation: a newspaper gown meant to double as a statement piece and a self-written article.

It took no time for the Avant-garde dress to capture the attention of both the Columbus community and, well, The Dispatch. The post has garnered hundreds of likes and comments, along with dozens of shares.

“It was shocking and surprising,” she said. “Everyone was congratulating me because they thought the shoot was an actual article that had been published.”

The peculiar thought to fashion this gown came to White-Owens as she stumbled across a recent copy of The Commercial Dispatch. What she found in the contents of each page was a world of potential — an opportunity to morph one work of art into another.

“Fashion is my passion. I was looking in the papers and saw that there was no fashion section in the paper,” White-Owens said. “There is entertainment, news and lifestyles but no fashion.”

Determined to incorporate fashion in the newspaper, White-Owens took it upon herself to unconventionally “write her own article.” She recruited the help of Jones and Mayfield Photography before embarking on a quest to create the dress.

“One random day I was just like I would love to have an article and I just contacted Mayfield and Jones and I put it (the concept and shoot) together,” White-Owens said.

With a model and photographer acquired, the young designer had everything she needed to make the vision come true. Everything except for the dress of course.

Giddy with excitement, White-Owens began weaving her masterful web. She sent her husband to buy as many newspapers as he could with a $20 bill, measured Jones’ waistline, created a skirt out of polyester and began folding and creasing each newspaper until they were pleated.

“It was a lot of fold over and tape down, fold over tape down, fold over and tape down until it was all put together and I put it around her,” White-Owens said.

After each paper was properly pleated, she taped them around the silhouette of her model. The stylish testament to fashion and journalism took a mere two hours to complete.

“I think she knew that I would be able to jump into her vision. She is so creative and I think she knew I would be able to bring the vision to life,” Jones said. “I didn’t know what I was wearing. I just got fitted and helped her vision come together.”

Dressed in a paper vision of beauty, Jones posed for Mayfield in the dress and soon all three uploaded to Facebook, and the rest is history. Well, quite recent history.

Since the post gained popularity, White-Owens has seen a lot more attention turned toward her business and hopes to use her ideas in the coming years to make her brand global.

“A lot more attention has been turned towards my business since the post went up,” White-Owens said. ‘We haven’t had anyone reach out just yet for a partnership or anything like that, but we are definitely getting a lot more attention (on social media).”

The dress will stand as a testament to the endless potential of a creative mind and a subtle inquiry to revive fashion in newspapers.

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