That first year, Lamela held her first “trashion” show in Nevada City with 21 outfits made out of everything from garbage bags to aluminum foil to plastic wrap. Over the next 20 years, Haute Trash’s brand of environmental awareness with stylish flair spread. More creative designers with a passion for fashion (and sustainability) joined the group, putting on more than 100 shows and making dozens upon dozens of outfits. The organization became a nonprofit in 2006 and now holds events in California as well as Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Colorado.
“We do this just to raise people’s awareness of what we throw away as a society,” says Kathi Griffis (aka Prima Debris), Haute Trash’s executive director. “You can’t throw things away — it has to go somewhere. Why throw it out when you can wear it out?”
Today, Haute Trash regularly stages shows at conferences and conventions, organizes school workshops to educate students about recycling and what they’re throwing out, and has more than a dozen active designers.
Although all outfits must be made using recycled trash, each designer sets his or her own standard for an outfit. Some upcycle or collect items that would otherwise be thrown out and may use tape or staples to fasten things together. Others actually Dumpster dive for their raw materials and only use items that can’t be recycled (think potato chip bags or old dental floss for thread).
“Designers use their own trash as a statement,” explains Griffis, who says one of her favorite ways to find materials is to gather items discarded on the side of the road. “Now and then we’ll use some fabric as a lining for something, but even then, it’s an old curtain or something that was being thrown away.”
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