Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of clothing is burned or dumped in the landfill. Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water, after agriculture. Polyester garments shed microfibers in the wash that pass into our waterways and harm aquatic life.
The negative ecological effects of the fashion industry are numerous and, in an effort to address them, many designers are going green.
There is a global trend towards sustainable fashion. Brands as recognizable as Adidas and Nike have committed to reducing the use of natural resources and are instead using reclaimed plastics. New lines of sunglasses, shoes and even wedding gowns are being created from shoreline and ocean waste.
Students at SAIL high school are getting involved by exploring how to create stylish designs from an array of recycled materials.
Rosa Cefalu, fiber arts teacher at SAIL, initiated a fashion show last year to showcase her students’ creations. Expanding on the success of the inaugural event, she encouraged her emerging designers to consider possible themes for this year’s show.
They were inspired by the unconventional materials challenge from the reality television series “Project Runway” and they were moved to create fashion with a conscience.
“This year we decided to use recycled materials. We reached out to the community and we were overwhelmed with stuff. My classroom was full of cardboard boxes, bottle caps, those mesh bags that oranges come in and every possible thing you can think of,” said Cefalu who teamed up with Sheri Nilles, one of SAIL’s art teachers.
Nilles’ students used the same materials to create sculptures of endangered animals which were displayed during the fashion show.
To give her fiber art students some context, Cefalu introduced them to designers who are working in similar ways. “We looked at other artists who make entire gowns out of recycled materials. One of them pulled and used all the things that were recyclable out of one garbage truck. It was surprising to see all the things that shouldn’t have been in there.”
Students felt free to explore and experiment with the recycled materials which allowed for more innovative designs. “They weren’t worried about ruining the materials,” noted Cefalu. “They get really nervous about taking fabric out of the closet even though it’s all donated. I try to remind them that my classroom is made for mistakes. You’re not going to be great at this right away. You have to learn and practice. They feel a little more comfortable with the recycled materials.”
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