I connected with designer Robin Worley, one of the founders of the trash to fashion movement in America, over email after she noticed some of my posts and I noticed her organizaiton’s Web site. She kindly agreed to share the origin story of trash to fashion as subject #3 in our ongoing series of Trashtastic Tuesdays.
everydaytrash: How did you become involved in the trash fashion world?
Robin Worley: It all began in Nevada City, Californiain 1983 with a woman named Susan Lamela, a.k.a. Polly Ethelina, and a show called “On the Cutting Edge”. It was a social science experiment. I modeled for Polly in the second show she did which took place in 1986 and featured the work of three designers, Polly E., Mr. Perception and Mary X. This was the humble beginnings of Haute Trash & eventually the Haute Trash Artist’s Collaborative, a Non-Profit Organization of which I am currently V.P.
everydaytrash: What was the first show you took part in or organized?
Worley: I modeled in [On the Cutting Edge] and then was a designer for the first time in next show called Hot Trash 8-8-88 (it was on Aug. 8th, 1988) and then Trash Tech in 1989 and Haute Trash, Objet Trouvé Fashion in 1990. With each show the number of designers increased…In 1988 I moved to the Big Island of Hawaii, commuting back and forth to do the shows in California when I connected with Trash Artist Ira Ono and the beginnings of a Trash Art movement in the Hawaiian Islands. The first show I produced was a runway show of seven of my own pieces at the East Hawaii Cultural Center in Hilo for the very first Art of Trash Gala Opening in September 1991.
everydaytrash: How has the community of designers evolved and expanded over the years?
Worley: Over the time that we have been at this we’ve seen a lot of evolution! It was a popular theme in the “Techno-Era” that we started in, but now it really seems like an idea whose time has come. We didn’t really know anyone else who was doing what we do back then. Now we discover new trash fashion designers all over the world all the time thanks to the internet. That is, or they find us. We have a website it’s www.hautetrash.org. There is a competition in New Zealand [and others in Portland, Seattle and Ontario, Canada]…just by our experiences this past year I can say Trash Fashion is everywhere we look these days, the community of trash fashion designers is now nation wide. All these competitions and group shows attract new designers or designers working with trash as a new medium, so it’s only going to grow.
everydaytrash: Do runway shows of novelty trash outfits have an impact on the fashion industry or the environment?
Worley: I’d like to think so. Our fashion show seems to have quite an impact on everyone who sees it. So I hope the industry will take notice soon! We make an impact on the people, and they make an impact on the industry and the environment. I think this is especially true when we go into the schools and meet with the next generation. We learn as much as we share usually, if not more. The kids today are living in a whole different world than the computer-free one I grew up in. I recently taught Trash Fashion to a group of Fashion Design and Marketing students at an occupational high school near Seattle. We took a tour of the local recycling plant and then they all created beautiful and thoughtful pieces that were shown at a Fashion Show for the Washington D.E.C.A. marketing club convention which had about 3,800 kids in the audience. I could tell by the response that these students agreed with the idea of using green marketing as a tool for social change. As the emcee I gave examples in my intro like the GAP’s red clothing marketing campaign to raise money and awareness to the global AIDS crisis, or the Pink Ribbon Campaign against Breast Cancer.
There’s a definite shift happening. The fashion industry is considering the environment now too. But whether or not we are of any influence, it’s great to see how much of the fashion magazines are filled with green thinking. What was once alternative is now turning mainstream. Green Marketing is the in thing. Safeway has its own line of Organics. Barney’s has a line of organic cottons. What the people buy is what really affects the industry. Pretty simple…Recycling is all good and well, but what about just never using all that packaging and disposable convenience stuff in the first place? In Europe manufacturers are held accountable for the amount of waste that will be generated by the packaging around their products. In America 94% of the materials extracted for use in manufacturing durable products become waste before the product is even manufactured. And then, 80% of what we manufacture is thrown away within six months of production…That’s embarrassing if nothing else.
everydaytrash: Who are some of your favorite trash designers?
Worley: Polly Ethelina of course. She had the vision. Elvira Mental Werks because of the detail they put into their designs, Prima Debris because of her “trash purist” approach to design, Redussa d’Trash, Racey Garbaj, Redeema Debris, Mr. Trashwell, Wayward Girls Productions, Eve and the House of Original Sin, Chacko, Ruby Reusable, the designers of Troupe de Trash….there are so many it’s hard to list them all. Nancy Judd of Pulp Fashion is amazing. All the designers at the Junk to Funk Competition were quite excellent. The Waitakere competition is outrageous! John Galliano does some amazing stuff. I wish I had his budget. But then it wouldn’t be trash fashion if I bought materials.
Photos curtosey of Robin Worley. The Orange Construction Fence Gown designed by Elvira Mental Werks and Modeled by Rayona Visqueen (Robin Worley); Fashion on a Budget (shower curtain, torn parachute and red caution tape) Modeled by Jeanne and designed by Rayona Visqueen; River Raft Rendevous (strapless Ball gown created from a destroyed 2 man river raft with inflatable baffle hem) designed and modeled by Rayona Visqueen; and New York Times Bags Cocktail Dress and Tuxedo with Blueprint paper pants Designed by Prima and Redeema Debris and modeled by Val and Redeema.
Tags: zero waste