Woonsocket native launches military fashion line

Woonsocket native launches military fashion line

Woonsocket artist Paul Cote will launch his line “Art Fashion Honor” on Oct. 18 in New York City. Part of the proceeds will be donated to veterans‘ causes.
Cote raises money for veterans' causes

WOONSOCKET – A new project by a local artist will honor forgotten soldiers with style by repurposing military gear and using fashion to help raise funds for veterans' causes.

"Art Fashion Honor" will launch at an event on Oct. 18 at the Soho House in New York City.

The fashion line is the latest project by Paul Cote, a Woonsocket High School graduate who has made a name for himself in the art world with his unique abstract works. Cote has taken his art off the canvass in the past, creating a line of sneakers, and painting items such as bags and purses. A series painted on driftwood last year was used to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Now, Cote says he's applied his style to authentic military apparel, painting mosaics on gear once worn by soldiers.

The idea, Cote says, came from a fan.

"It was this incredible, organic thing," Cote said. "This woman who I didn't even know just loved my artwork."

The woman, Elizabeth Moreau, came from a military family, and had a son who has struggled with the casualties of war after a tour in Iraq. Moreau had access to a stock of vintage military items and wanted Cote to transform the gear into pieces that could be sold. The project would raise money for veterans' causes.

"I get approached with a lot of these things, but this was very impactive," Cote said of Moreau's idea. "It's very honest."

The artist agreed to restyle the pieces, and the brand, Art Fashion Honor, was born.

Since then, Cote has painted overalls, pants and hats from a variety of military conflicts. But the project has mostly focused on jackets, produced 10 at a time in color themes, with a red, white and blue version dubbed "Patriotic" or clothing in deeper colors billed as the "Purple Heart" collection.

"My process is very blinded," he said. "I use the colors based on my mood. Everything is emotional or mood triggered."

A lot of the coats, he said, come to him with the soldier's name still stitched in the lapel. Cote removes the tags and has been saving them to create a separate mosaic.

Next month's private launch event is one of several events the local artist will bring to the New York art scene. The one-of-a-kind hand-signed coats sell for $500, with $50 donated to a veterans' cause, such as one suggested by Moreau, American History Theater, a non-profit organization designed to raise awareness around veterans issues with a specific focus on women veterans.

It's one of many projects Cote has launched this fall.

Cote recently joined the board of RiverzEdge Arts Project, a Woonsocket-based collaborative giving local teens jobs and training in art. The organization is celebrating it's 15th anniversary at a gala to be held Thursday, Oct. 26.

The only full-fledged artist currently serving on the RiverzEdge board, Cote said he was approached by the current president and asked to join. Karen Barbosa recently took over for Rebekah Greenwald, who led the nonprofit for eight years.

"They're a great organization and they're going through a huge transition," Cote said.

On Oct. 26, Cote will display eight to 10 pieces of his work as part of the gala. He'll also do a live performance piece using live music to inspire a piece painted in front of an audience.

Cote has created live pieces at events including PVD Fest in Providence and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In performances with the State Ballet of Rhode Island, the dancers have also followed the lead, becoming part of the art.

"I've done it to jazz. I've done it to blues. I've done it to rock and roll," Cote said. "You get synchronized, and you're working as one so it's really cool."

Cote said he is not sure who will perform music at the RiverzEdge gala, but in the past he's recruited drummers from the Blue Man Group.

The artist also has a solo gallery exhibit at the Candita Clayton Gallery in Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket running through Oct. 14.

He will be featured again at the TibetFund Gala hosted by Richard Gere in New York City in October.

Cote's annual fundraiser to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association will be held at Museum of Work and Culture on Nov. 18. Details of that event have not yet been released, but Cote says he has big announcements to come.

Editor's Note: The above article has been edited from the original print version, which incorrectly stated that Moreau's son was an amputee.