Haute Trash Transforms Garbage into Fashion

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“Trashing Alexander McQueen” designed by Elvira Mental Werks (Shaun Muscolo). Made from Mylar shipping bags. Modeled by Joiex Duncan. Photo: Adrian Schneider

“Trashing Alexander McQueen” designed by Elvira Mental Werks (Shaun Muscolo). Made from Mylar shipping bags. Modeled by Joiex Duncan. Photo: Adrian Schneider

The crowd gathered at a show in Nevada City, Calif., lets out a collective cheer as the stage lights come on, a pulsing techno beat fills the air and a model struts out onto the runway.

One fantastical look after another floats down the catwalk: a voluminous ball gown, a whimsical hat, a pair of kicky bell-bottom pants and more. But this isn’t your typical fashion show.

That ball gown is actually made from milk jugs. The hat? It used to be an old bicycle wheel. And those retro bell-bottoms? Well, they had a former life as plastic bags. Every single article of clothing is made not from expensive fabrics, hides or furs but from recycled garbage.

Haute Trash, the California-based nonprofit artist collaborative that organized this unique event, has been putting on trash fashion shows since 1983. Founder Susan Lamela (alter ego Polly Ethylena) was repairing an expensive suit when she became frustrated with the poor quality and workmanship. “I could do better than this with trash,” she declared, and she did just that.

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