Jacobim Mugatu's final runway campaign in Zoolander appears to be mostly constructed from slick garbage bags, an in-the-gutter look that is unlikely—except when it is not. Enter stage left: Bend's Rubbish Renewed trash fashion show.
"My favorite part is the innovation," said show founder Amy Anderson. "People take everyday materials and transform them, leaving you questioning, 'what is that?' And it's a milk jug or some Tyvek that has been painted. I love when you can transform a material."
Each garment at the show is pieced together from local trash, and although eco-friendly, most present more as post-apocalyptic than environmentally green. And, as Anderson said, when examining a found object design, the answer to "what is that?" is almost always more complicated than silk or polyester.
It was the Bravo reality fashion design show, "Project Runway" that first inspired Anderson, who is also program coordinator for Rimrock Expeditionary Alternative Learning Middle School (REALMS), and Karen Holm, the art instructor at REALMS. That, coupled with their love of unconventional materials.
And, to say "unconventional" is an understatement. On the program, material-specific challenges restrict designers to buying material only in the grocery or hardware store, or making garments entirely from flowers (take that, Rose Parade floats!). Those restrictions, however, only seem to intensify the designers' inspirations.
"It's a labor of love," explained Anderson. "I've known people to go through trashcans and dig. Then it's playing around with the materials cutting it apart, playing with glue and drills and unconventional industrial sewing machines to find how to manipulate and hold them together," Anderson added. "I've seen garments held together with rivets and jewelry loops. Last year Spa W did a garment out of gift cards and drilled holes in them and put rings to connect them. People think the garments are going to be trashy and not as classy as they are."
The rules for the show are few, but strict. Clothing entered in the Trash-fashion category must be 90 percent material otherwise headed for the garbage or recycling, while those entered in the re-fashion category must be made from entirely repurposed fabric.
"Re-fashion is anything," said Anderson. "Like taking apart jeans that are going to Goodwill and transforming them into a different garment."
The event is not only a high fashion runway show, but a highly successful fundraiser for REALMS and, this year, includes student submissions from the alternative middle school and seven other participating area schools. REALMS even taught a Rubbish Renewed elective class in which students were able to work, teacher supported, to get their garments runway ready. Anderson and Roger White, the school's director, say that the ecofriendly fashion show is in alignment with REALMS' creative and sustainable mission, and that students can learn a lot from making their own recycled garment.
"It's an opportunity for us to help form a new perspective on what goes into making any piece of clothing, and what goes into making a product in general," explained White. "All the process in design, concept, revision and tinkering with actually making it. This educational process is typically reserved for the science classroom and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, but to be able to bring an artistic element into that process is cool for the kids."
The event has two shows, one family friendly, that debuts the student and professional work at 5 pm, and a 7:30 pm 21+ showcase for the adult crowd with drinks, food carts and the trash-work of many high profile local designers who have in past years included Panambi Elliot, Allison Murphy, owner of Utilitu Sewing & Design, and Karlin Hedin of Sara Bella Upcycled.
Rubbish Renewed Eco Fashion Show
Thursday Jan. 16
5 pm & 7:30 pm
The Armory, 875 SW Simpson Ave.
$10 students, $15 adults