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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On the Eco-Conscious Catwalk

The Upcycled Fashion Show at ECHO is only a few days away, which is good. Not only because it's going to be a fabulous evening for adults to enjoy learning about sustainable fashion, but because I'll finally be able to get this terrible 90s song out of my head. Just think catwalk...and being too sexy for your shirt...and that weird group Right Said Fred. Don't click the link, it'll stick in your head too.

I will say that what I don't mind sticking in my head are all the things I've learned about the fashion industry since we started planning this event. As someone who teaches about conservation, I immediately think of water; the water it takes to produce cotton, the water it takes to dye fabric, the chemicals in dye, the water I use to wash my clothes (man, I hate laundry), and the list in my head goes on and on. Push that even further and start thinking about oil consumption as it relates to the clothing industry and you'll never look at your clothes the same way again.

The word "upcycling" has started to pop up in places including the DIY-scene (do-it-yourself) and it is a perfect concept to introduce as part of the Conservation Quest exhibit. The terms upcycling and downcycling were coined by the authors of the the book Cradle to Cradle which examines the way we produce goods. My definition - upcycling is taking an object, keeping it out of the recycling stream and trying to find a way to repurpose that item so that it is of more value or of better quality than what I was just about to recycle.

Now, I'm not much of a fashionista. And, I'm much more of a thrift-store shopper than one that goes for the latest trends. However, confession time here - I love watching Project Runway. I've always been blown away not only by the creativity of designers but also the skill it takes to imagine something and then take needle and thread and make it real. What does this have to do with upcycling? Well, my most favorite design came from the episode a few years back that had the "car challenge". Contestants had to use materials they could strip from a car for their design. My fav, the seat-belt coat - loved it! And, I can't forget this year's episode "You Can Totally Wear That Again", where they (thank-goodness) deconstructed some horrifying bridesmaids dresses and turned them into dresses you could actually wear in public.

Imagine my surprise then when I met Gyllian Rae Svensson owner of The Bobbin Sew Bar & Craft Lounge who is totally into the sustainable fashion movement AND had been invited to be on Project Runway. SWEET! Really, Gyllian blew my mind the first time I sat down with her to talk about the concept for an upcycled fashion show at ECHO. She talked about wanting to start a fashion movement that was as strong as the localvore movement. Makes sense doesn't it? The jeans I have on today used 1,800 gallons of water just to grow the cotton that goes into them, never mind the water and chemicals used to dye them. If my jeans can be repurposed; deconstructed then reconstructed into something fabulous AND fashionable, well right-on! And she's not the only one doing this in Vermont. Gyllian's pulled together a few other local designers to show off their upcycling skills at ECHO next week.

So, I hope you'll join me next Thursday night for our first and hopefully not last, Upcycled Fashion Show. We'll all have the opportunity to learn more about sustainable fashion from Gyllian and the other designers at the show, and have a drink with a little conversation about being too sexy for the eco-conscious catwalk. Hey, and if you have your own upcycling craft gig going on, click on over to our Facebook page and share some photos of your creations. We'd love to see 'em and share 'em. Or, wear 'em to the show!

What are you waiting for?
Click here to find out how to get your tickets!
Or click here to share your photos on Facebook!

Top photo: The Bobbin Sew Bar & Craft Lounge
Bottom photo: Project Runway photos


~Posted by Bridget Butler, ECHO's Conservation Education Specialist

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