Ijams presents the Second Annual Fleurish 2023: Keep Growing

(Today’s article is by Contributing Writer, Heather Ryerson)

The earth has welcomely come alive at Ijams Nature Center after a winter slumber with flowers blooming and trees beginning to green. The osprey have returned from their seasonal migration, and the spring peepers (a frog species) are singing their futile mating songs. A newly renovated and now handicapped-accessible universal pond in front of the visitor’s center is showing signs of life again and served as a perfect centerpiece for Fleurish: A Sustainable Fashion Event where guests were presented with sustainable and avant-garde fashion for a cause.

Ijams website describes the event: “Fleurish is a collaborative runway show showcasing how sustainability, conservation, and beauty intertwine with our lives and our future. Local designers, hair stylists, and makeup artists join forces to create amazing designs that incorporate sustainable materials and innovative recycling methods, and reusing what was once discarded.”

The following 18 designers worked hard to put together sustainable, creative, and beautiful designs. Seating lined the runway path, and some guests took advantage of the opportunity to throw blankets on the grass and enjoy the fashion and entertainment picnic-style. The runway show kicked off just as the sun began to set. With over 60 models, there were many “ohs and ahs” as they moved through the crowd. Each model represented a team of hair and makeup specialists and a designer or design team. You will soon see professional photos from the event along with the designer for each ensemble on the Ijams website.

The evening began with a cocktail hour and music by local favorite Rica Chicha, who recently performed at the Big Ears Festival. Guests also enjoyed the “fiber bombs,” upcycled fiber art installation, by Victoria Walsh and Craft Appalachia. I had the privilege of meeting Danielle Johnson, who made one of the larger pieces on display.

The runway show began at 7 with comments from Sarah Brobst and ended with remarks and thanks from Amber Parker, CEO of Ijams. The musical entertainment during the show and after was from the creative and talented Brent Hyder. Brent is described as a live-looping artist, one-man-band, creating chill times and good vibes.

Fleurish is a fundraiser for the Nature Center and is the brainchild of Ben Prager in partnership with the staff at Ijams, primarily the talented Sarah Brobst, Visitor Services Director at Ijams and artist. Amy Lee is the Media and Marketing Director of Fleurish. The event raised $10,000, double what they raised last year, and attendance at this year’s event more than doubled. Ben told me he feels Fleurish is a way to bring creatives together to demonstrate their talents and allows them to do something for the greater good. He smilingly compared it to a “playdate with other creatives.”

Next year’s event will be held on April 21 at Ijams. The theme will be “Funk vs. Punk.” This announcement elicited cheers and excited chatter from the crowd. Ben encouraged audience participation for next year’s show by choosing funk or punk for your own outfit. I’m already planning mine. Some steampunk fashion may be in my future!

If you have questions about Fleurish or want to contribute or participate, contact Sarah Brobst at sbrobst@ijams.com or fleurishknoxville@gmail.com. If you want to be part of the Ijams family and support their outstanding work for the community by preserving the land and creating space for visitors to enjoy the outdoors, click here!


I have added a handful of the photos I took at the event. Please check back on the Ijams website soon for professional photos and information on the designer/design by Kara Hudgens Photography and the Fleurish marketing team.