Truthfully or not, the fashion industry is known for its tensity, but the mood was relaxed at the “Recycle the Runway” competition last Saturday at Drama House.

“Recycle the Runway” is an annual fundraising event that GreenSpace, a special interest floor in Burton that focuses on the environment and sustainability, puts on. The idea is that designers or groups willing to compete design an outfit that is comprised of recyclable or sustainable materials. Two events preceded the competition itself, a “Building Session” hosted by Fashion Club the week before,and a “Sustainable Fashion Talk” from EcoReps the Monday before.

For the first time, GreenSpace collaborated with Fashion Club (technically a committee of the Creative Arts Club) this year for the event, which was also co-sponsored for by GrassRoots. GreenSpace president sophomore Kailin Zhuang talked about the paradoxical waste issue that the event has created in past years.

“For the past couple of years, whenever we did ‘Recycle the Runway,’ [the outfits] were usually made of materials that you would recycle, like plastic bottles or newspaper,” Zhuang said. “But when you make an outfit out of [those materials], they’re not recyclable anymore.”

That’s where GrassRoots, which describes itself on Campus Community Connection as “the University of Rochester’s premier environmental action and awareness group,” came in.

GrassRoots holds a monthly clothing exchange, where people can drop off unwanted clothes and pick up articles that catch their eye.

The final event, the competition itself, was minimalist. A long, thin, black platform served as a catwalk, while parallel rows of couches on either side served as audience seating. Two prizes were given: “Most Sustainable” and “Most Creative.”

The creativity prize, a “mystery box” full of trinkets like a blue bow and a bottle of perfume, was given to Fashion Club’s submission, which was designed by the club’s president, junior Keneon Williams. It was a gown (worn by first-year Anna Remus) made out of dismembered law textbooks that had been used in the International Theater Company’s production of “In The Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer” last semester.

The sustainability prize, a box filled with plants growing out of glass bottles, was given to  GrassRoots’ for a blue, two-piece outfit (worn by first-year Natalie Ramesh) made from leftover clothes from the clothing exchange.

Williams said that fashion and the idea of sustainability in clothing is something that he grew up with.

“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t tinkering with my clothes,” Williams said, adding later, “We really didn’t throw away clothing. I remember one time [my mother] accidentally bleached a pair of her own jeans. She was in the laundry room and dropped the bleach on her jeans, so she made a design with the a marker on her clothes. I remember just thinking, ‘Wow.’”

When asked about the lack of common association between fashion and sustainability in the public eye, Zheung responded, “Decades ago, we didn’t believe that climate change was a thing. Now everybody talks about it.”

Zheung hopes that with events like these, we can broaden our perception of the problems we face, and the solutions we have to counter them.

Correction (3/23/18): The initial version of this story said that this was GrassRoots’ first year co-sponsoring the event. The group has done so several times in the past; this year was first year it had donated clothes.



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