TCE: Trash Makeover Challenge

I modeled in a fashion show hosted by the Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE) several weeks ago at Delta Millworks. It was dubbed the “Trash Makeover Challenge” in which the designers had to make fabulous creations from recycled materials. The garments were judged and then winners were announced later in the evening. I was originally going to be an attendee, but I was tapped to model by designers- Aidan Liller and Cathie Hutchins. Aidan had three looks in the show, two menswear and one was menswear-inspired worn by me; with bags from Cathie’s eco-friendly handbag line- Austin Yarn Company. Aidan’s designs were vintage-inspired industrial-chic, with materials recycled from discarded vintage clothing, old somewhat rusty chains that made from great suspenders, discarded signage and the mother of them all- a vest made from all vintage labels. I mean- GENIUS! Aidan wanted to show a blue collar/all walks of life theme. I wore my hair in pigtails and wore a beret made from a recycled sign, knickers recycled from a few pairs of vintage pants, suspenders that were woven from old VHS tape, a blouse made from a recycled feed bag and socks quickly fashioned from recycled t-shirts. The Austin Yarn Company added exceptional accessories to the whole story as well. I sported a messenger bag that had recycled signage HANDSEWN into the design. Aidan carried a clutch that was beautifully paired with his vintage label vest. The other bag was more of a briefcase design made from recycled denim. I have to hand it to Cathie, as her work is a labor of love, which showed in the intricate detailing in the bags. Definitely check out the Austin Yarn Company…I mean, the holidays are just around the corner and who couldn’t use an eco “IT” bag!?

Other designers from the evening include: Katherine Kykta, Emily Zimmerman, Geneva Hopson, Emmy Starr, Jessi Eaton, Laisa Macias, Teresa Basa, Atelier Lone Star Sierra Club, Circe Torosian, Carole Leclair, Kari Perkins, Megan Pinto, Tina Sparkles, Donna Hoffman and Ilonka Soto-Pelyvas. I was able to catch up with a few of the designers regarding their inspirations. Donna Hoffman’s inspirations are a juxtaposition between ‘Garden of Eden meets RadioActive Waste Dump.’ She is inspired by Rose Flores, who owns a floral shop just across the the New Mexico border from the Texas waste dump in Andrews County. She also draws inspiration from model- Chiaki’s child, Noah. “Chiaki and her husband Ivan did everything they can to keep him safe and bring him here to where Ivan’s family lives after the nuclear power plant disaster in Fukushima about 100 miles from where they were living. Its innocence saying No to corruption saying to Pandora, ‘put that shit back in the box!‘ “ Donna explained. Two of her models sported coal plant underwear and ‘Beyond Coal’ tees, which mimicked the stunts that were held on college campuses across the US last year to demonstrate the need to move ‘beyond coal’ and transition to clean wind and solar power. Circe Torosian started dabbling in recycled fashion back in high school as part of an independent project in studio art. Her main source of inspiration is her Mom- artist Virginia Fleck, who works with a lot of plastic bags. Circe has been able to delve into her Mom’s huge bag stash and has made woven totes, clutches and belts out of the bags. Circe goes on to explain, “I have designed fashions made from other recycled items but choose to mainly use plastic because of its profound impact on our environment. Plastic is a very permanent material (it does not biodegrade) and is also very pervasive because it is used so widely.” Costume designer Kari Perkins thought that since this event dealt with the Texas environment, she decided to promote a few of her favorite Austin environmental ‘crown jewels’: Barton Springs, the Greenbelt and the ‘Violet Crown’ (the purple aura during the sunset of the hills in the hills). Her collection was created with plastic and chip bags and tape. Tina Sparkles was inspired by a tablecloth she found in a thrift store. Carole LeClair has a rather interesting story that I’ll just share with you how she explained it to me. “My whole family has been seriously into dumpster diving since discovering the one behind our local Pier 1 back in the ’70’s. All my brother and sisters are compulsive savers of fixable and reusable things (hence the reason 4 of us became engineers). One of my sisters works as a job coach for developmentally disabled high school students and therefore spends lots of afternoons in Goodwill intake areas. She regularly picks things that even Goodwill is going to pitch (but only after getting them to put a price on it) which is how I came in possession of several vinyl movie posters from some real dogs from the 90’s. At first, I was going to make rain ponchos which seemed like a perfect fit. I did make one, but found the material to be a bit stiff for practical use. As last year’s show included so many fabulous and over the top ball gowns and evening wear designs, I decided to get the same direction and make party dresses out of the rest of the posters. I let the design on the poster tell me how to construct the dress. In the case of a bright red and black poster from the the movie “Volcano”, the bottom of the poster gave the ominous warning “The Coast is Toast”. With sea and surface ice melting at alarming rate, I knew I wanted to preserve the message so I cut a full skirt which would keep the entire phrase in tact. My other party dress was cut from a movie poster from “The Saint”. My favorite part of the poster was Jean Claude Van Dam’s eyes so these were cut into the bodice. The skirt was made as full and long a possible. Since the colors of the poster were very dark and goth, we went for a tough bike-look party dress. All remaining scraps from both poster were then sewn and laced into purses, pouches and wallets so virtually nothing was left…I had an awesome time participating in this event. I really believe in TCE’s mission. While I have embraced the Reduce/Reuse/Recycle lifestyle personally, we need organizations like TCE to advocate for the environmental changes we would like to see in our society.” Lastly, Megan Pinto’s designs were a representation of good vs. evil. She explains, “One design used natural materials, such as wood chips and delicate fabric from the Blue Hanger. The color choices were neutral to compliment my model, Audra, and the silhouette is on the modest side. The second design was completely black and was composed of rope, burlap, and flexi trash bags. The shoulders were embellished with 1.5 inch long screws. I wanted this look to have the bad girl appeal, hence the low cut neckline and rocker-esq inspiration.” I loved how every designer that evening had a unique feature and everyone did well representing what they feel is sustainable fashion. After the show, the winners were announced. Tina Sparkles won the Ready-to-Wear award, Kari Perkins won the Avante Garde award, Emmy Starr won the Overall award. After the announcements, the atmosphere turned into a dance party, complete with belly dancing from Drishti Dancers.

Huge thanks to the designers; rest of the models; judges: Liz Watson, April Kling Meyer, Mary Margaret Quadlander, Eve Nichols; Salon O Austin/Parker Serenity Wig Spa for hair & make-up; the fashion show coordinators: Vicki, Tasha and Natalie; Emcee- Maggie Maye; TCE executive director- Robin Schneider; the sponsors, especially the Salt Lick for an amazing catered spread!  

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