On the last weekend of April, two area nonprofits will send their latest batch of eco-fashion designs down the runway to raise awareness around sustainable concepts such as reusing materials and recycling clothing. On Friday, April 26, Goodwill hosts its fifth annual Color Me Goodwill upcycled fashion show at The Orange Peel. The following evening, Saturday, April 27, Asheville GreenWorks kicks off its second Environmental Awards and Trashion Show at the DoubleTree by Hilton Asheville-Biltmore.
“In each of the four previous Color Me Goodwill shows, six designers presented collections,” says Sarah Merrell, who has been the Color Me Goodwill show director since it launched in 2015. “This year, the pool of designers was so competitive that we decided to expand to seven collections.”
Each of the seven designers is assigned a color and given $125 to shop for supplies at area Goodwill stores. The designers then deconstruct and rebuild with those materials to create color-inspired collections. The show features local models, stylists and makeup artists who all volunteer their time, along with clients from Goodwill’s employment and job training programs. The first-place winner, who is selected by a panel of expert judges, receives a $500 cash prize. There’s also a $200 audience choice award.
“Color Me Goodwill has been standing room only every year,” says Pam Anglin, Goodwill’s vice president of marketing and communications. “We’re excited about continuing to showcase the talented fashion professionals working in Asheville. And the event reminds the community of the unique finds available in Goodwill stores and of how those purchases support Goodwill’s employment programs.”
When the designers source their materials, they don’t just stay in the clothing section. Anglin says that shower curtains, pieces of metal and accordion shades have been used in the past. Last year’s first-place and audience choice winner, Leanna Echeverri, fashioned a Marie Antoinette-inspired blue collection that was created almost entirely from bustling layers of bedsheets. Echeverri, who also runs the clothing company Grateful Threads, will return to the runway this year with a milieu of red creations.
Jon Pierce, another featured designer, made his show debut in 2018 with a Pokémon-inspired collection. This year he’ll present a militaristic look in black. Birgeta Mannikan, who recently began transitioning to fashion after designing handbags for seven years, is making her debut this year with a blue collection. Another new face is Art Blue, known for his reconstructed vintage-inspired line that sells at Vintage Moon, Hip Replacements, Honeypot, Twice Round and The Downtown Market.
How has the community responded to the fashion shows? “We are seeing an increase of really good donations to the stores, and now people are donating more besides clothing. They’re thinking more about donating electronics and other materials before trashing it,” says Anglin. “People are more aware of what fills up our landfill.”
NOT JUST ONE AND DONE
For Dawn Chavez, executive director of Asheville GreenWorks, landfill awareness is everything. Of the 63,000 pounds of litter her volunteers have collected by hand, she says most of it is lightweight plastic. “It’s an enormous amount of waste that’s not just ugly but is also disrupting the ecology of our system, poisoning our fish and not breaking down,” she says.
Chavez adds that since China, which was processing about half of the world’s plastic, has stopped taking the recyclables of other countries, the plastic problem has become even more serious. “If we can help people reduce the overall plastic they use, there would be less plastic to recycle or deal with,” she says. “Instead of the three Rs, we think of the five Rs: refuse, reduce, reuse, rot, then recycle.”
It’s fitting that this year’s theme will again be plastic. In addition to the Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony, the show will feature more than a dozen local designers who will craft clothes from landfill items. A few fashion highlights from last year included “Game of Thrones”-themed apparel and a flamenco dress made of coffee filters.
Chavez sees the show as a way to avoid “preaching to the choir” while creatively raising awareness about plastic. The stage design, sponsored by local marketing company Gigantic, will feature a set of reclaimed metal trees with plastic bags and bottles for leaves. The Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre will perform its Death by Plastica, and guest speaker Crystal Dreisbach of Don’t Waste Durham will discuss her work on reducing plastic waste in restaurants.
“After last year, people were so excited and begged for another event,” Chavez explains. “But one of the things we learned is we don’t want it to just be one and done, where we build excitement and then we go back to our lives.”
This year’s show kicks off Mind Your Plastic May, a 30-day commitment that asks people to reduce reliance on single-use materials such as plastic bags, straws and lids. It’s also an opportunity for the audience to learn and support the efforts of the Plastic Reduction Task Force that GreenWorks recently spearheaded in Asheville.
In a time when the environment is seeing some of its greatest challenges, Chavez says the participation from the community in these initiatives is what gives her hope.
“When we launched the Plastic Reduction Taskforce, we thought we’d have about 15 people,” she says. “We ended up having 40 and had to move our meeting location to New Belgium to accommodate everyone. Our volunteers have really risen to the challenge.”
WHAT: Asheville GreenWorks annual Environmental Awards and Trashion Show, avl.mx/5wo
WHERE: DoubleTree by Hilton Asheville-Biltmore, 115 Hendersonville Road
WHEN: Saturday, April 27, 6 p.m. $50 general/$40 members/$75 VIP