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SWANCC’s Trashy Fashion Show draws hundreds, features designer originals

The Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County showed more than 300 audience members that trendy outfits dont have to come from expensive materials at a fashion show Nov. 13 at the Glenview Park Center.

The third Trashy Fashion Show featured 40 outfits by 60 designers from nine of SWANCCs 23 member communities. But, the fashions were not couture gowns or high-priced must-haves, rather, unique looks that were 90 percent recyclable or reused items.

Everything has some kind of use, especially materials people consider garbage, said SWANCCs Recycling and Education Director Mary Allen. These designs hopefully showed people beauty can come out of trash. We were looking to raise the bar on the quality of the outfits and made it clear to the designers that they should give a lot of thought to the types of material they would use.

Designers, who ranged in age from 8 years old to adults, worked solo, with a partner, group or contributed as part of a community effort. The designers began attending meetings in May, and worked through the summer on their designs, attending SWANCC workshops and sewing circles.

One designer, Morgan McLuckie, 14, or Barrington, made a one shoulder cocktail dress out of used Starbucks filters and coffee-stained newspaper fastened to an old T-shirt that she called Wheres the Nearest Starbucks?  She added a belt, earrings and arm warmers as accessories, since 10 percent of all ensembles could include purchased items to accent the piece.

I just figured everyone loves Starbucks and goes there all the time, its part of our culture, McLuckie said. Im proud of how it turned out. I didnt know what to expect and it was a lot like Project Runway. I thought it was a really cool experience overall.

Designers had total creative freedom for their looks, and used all kinds of disposable materials in the execution. Each outfit had a title corresponding to it, and featured a wide array of materials, such as bubble wrap, aluminum foil, fast food containers, inner tubes, chains and envelopes, to name a few.

Park Ridge residents Jennifer Mathis and Valerie Zabriskie, both students at the International Academy of Design and Technology in Schaumburg, designed two looks for the show. The looks, a wedding dress called Mail Order Bride, which featured postal labels and envelopes and another dress called Love the Color that was made from magazine pages and potato chip bags.

I consider myself a green person all around, so thats what appealed to me about the show, Zabriskie said. With Mail Order Bride, I was inspired by how many people find love online nowadays, and since Mary mentioned she wanted to see a wedding dress, we thought why not?

The looks that strutted down the runway were mostly womens wear, but some designers took the menswear route to add variety. One of them was George Melichar, formerly of Evanston, who recently moved to New Orleans and came to Glenview specifically to show off his three looks, which were titled Divine Dumpster Designs. The designs consisted of a vest, bathing suit, capris/top, a skirt that were all constructed from fabric scraps he found in the garbage.

I like to call the looks repurposed, Melichar said. I wanted to show people that wearing clothes from throwaways isnt something you should be ashamed of. Its chic. Its a lifestyle. You can look like a million bucks.

Students and faculty from Niles North High School in Skokie and Fremd High School in Palatine incorporated the show in their curriculum. Niles North featured six designersone faculty member and five students and Fremd featured six outfits by Fashion Club members.

 We were looking for looks that wed be proud to showcase, and everybody met the expectations, Allen said. This was the first year we did the show as a community-based project. Typically we only reached out to schools, and this year, we were happy to see how many youth, school and library groups contributed to the designs.

Barb Clayton of Wilmette heads the environmental group, Go Green Wilmette and was particularly interested in checking out what the show had in store. She also attended to support her fellow Wilmette Gardeners club member, Charlotte Melzer, who designed and modeled her original piece, 29 Buttons and Bows.

I thought it was fantastic, Clayton said. Ive officially become inspired by bubble wrap. The show makes me want to go home and get started on a design of my own. I think it got a lot of us thinking about using what we would originally throw out as something else. The designs here are better than some Ive seen at the Art Institute fashion school.

Susan and Mary Ellen Sanchez of Glenview came to the show to see their family member, Mary Ann Enriquez, also a Glenview resident, model her design, "30 Fusion," a coat made from ironing magazine pieces and fruit stickers onto plastic bags.

"It was so fun," Susan Sanchez said. "It's amazing how these designers were able to turn something useful into something amazing. Showing off these designs is a great way to get the community motivated."

As for future Trashy Fashion Shows, Allen said next years budget is being reviewed, and she hopes to continue the event, though, she would make some small changes.

Id like to keep it at the same amount of designers and models, I dont think the show should be much longer, but I wouldnt mind reaching out to more community groups to make it a collective effort, Allen said. I think weve really piqued a local interest with this project and I hope people have become enlightened about the agency and its many offerings.

For more information about SWANCC, go to www.swancc.org.

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  1. Community Project Brings Awareness: Thank you Triblocal for covering this event. The feedback was outstanding, and the awareness of reduce, reuse, recycle was driven home in a big way!

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