By MIKE CHAIKEN
Just in time for Earth Day on April 22, fashion, style, art, and the joys of upcycling will be showcased this Saturday as the annual Trashion Fashion runway event takes over Hartford’s City Hall.
Leave behind the silks, cottons, and poly-blends this weekend. Local fashion designers and artists will be turning to duct tape, newspaper, packing materials, bubble wrap, and what have you— all rescued from the trash bin (as long as it was clean)— into a catalogue’s worth of style. And all will be worn by a bevy of local models trotting fiercely down the runway.
The Connecticut event has been growing year after year, and this year, the organizers are taking the Trashion Fashion brand to New York City and Washington D.C. for similar fashion shows.
Southington’s Rachel DeCavage was one of the pioneers of the Connecticut Trashion Fashion movement, showing her creations in the first ever edition of the runway show held in Middletown back in 2011. (Rachel is also the driving force of Evergreen Design Co., which is a copresenter of Trashion Fashion.) Her collection in the Trashion Fashion debut included imaginative reworkings of red and green straws from a local restaurant chain.
“Creating trashion is a really fun process,” said Rachel in an email interview. “It’s like being a kid again; you can let your imagination run wild.”
Rachel, who works with more traditional garments when she showcases her Sugar Plum brand, explained Trashion Fashion “in many ways, (is) easier than making real clothes. You can treat it as a sculpture and use different types of adhesives and materials that can’t really (be) sustained if they were washed and worn every week.”
For Rachel, there is a little bit of prep work and a whole lot of going with the flow when it comes to trashion. “I like to spend a little time with the materials and learn how they want to move,” said Rachel. But, she added, “I rarely plan my designs… I just start building outfits on a mannequin.”
With all the options available for non-traditional “fabrics,” Rachel said she doesn’t have any “preferred” materials. However, she said, “there are certain materials I have in excess. I recently got some large rolls of unused potato chip bags from Terracycle. They’re not the easiest material to work with but they’re bright, recognizable and fun. I also have a ridiculous amount of plastic straws from a local restaurant who was throwing them away unused. Straws and I have a love hate relationship. I’m really good at working with them now, but there was a lot of trial and error.”
After several years of sending models down the Trashion Fashion runways, Rachel said, “My favorite look is a one-shoulder party dress I made. The bodice is a shipping envelope, the waist band is aluminum duct tape, and the skirt is thousands of bright orange straws. I just think the colors are fantastic and the way it moves on the model is lovely. The straws just sway with each step- its great. It’s also very durable; I made it three years ago and it’s been worn by four models in that time. It’s really held up, which I think, is the point. If you’re only creating a single-use look, it’s not doing too much for the planet.”
Trashion Fashion is a one-day event but Rachel said she does take the Trashion Fashion aesthetic into her daily life. “Trashion is an enthusiastic version of upcycled fashion. You can make cute looks out of drab old things every day.”
“My favorite accessory, for example, is a clothespin I wear in my hair. I used a wood burning tool to draw a cute pattern on it and it holds just the perfect amount of hair back from my face,” said Rachel. “I also have a few fun headpieces I’ve made out of random junk in my studio; they’re perfect for spicing up a ‘jeans and t shirt’ outfit.”
And for people who want to implement the Trashion Fashion philosophy into their own lives, Rachel offered some advice. “Ultimately, for me, Trashion is all about being fearless in fashion. It’s a philosophy we can all live by even if we’re not wearing a jacket fashioned from clean waste. Fashion is about expression and Trashion provides a means to take it to the next level. To be more playful, more daring, more over-the-top than we would every day.”
The Hartford Trashion Fashion Show will be held at the Hartford City Hall, 550 Main St., Hartford from 6 to 9 p.m.
Tickets are $20. There will be a VIP reception at 6 p.m. for $50.
Besides the runway show, designs by high school and middle school students from the Greater Hartford region will be featured. There will be music by Latin band Goza. There will be spoken word and dance performances. The second floor of City Hall will be filled with environmental displays by local businesses and organizations under the direction of Evergreen Design Co.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN