Michelle Smith is an AmeriCorps volunteer with Groundwork Providence, asmall nonprofit urban environmental organization in Providence, R.I. Sheworks on integrating the arts into Groundwork’s environmentalprogramming.

Monday, 4 Mar 2002

PROVIDENCE, R.I.

Welcome to the final countdown to Runway Earth: Recycled Fashions for a Sustainable World, the fashion show that dares to ask: If you’re not recycling, what are you wearing? This Friday, Groundwork Providence will host this recycled fashion show at AS220, a local arts venue in Providence. Back in November, Dani Simons (the recycling coordinator for Providence) and I came up with this idea as a fun way to raise awareness about recycling and sustainability in the city.

Although the show will last just two hours, we’ve been preparing for the last few months — getting posters designed, finding models and designers, scheduling practices, finding a DJ. It has been busy, but exciting. This week will be spent in a frenzied rush of last-minute details, from gathering props and decorations to matching outfits with models to sending out press releases.

The show itself is happening in three parts. The first part features clothes loaned to us by the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR). NAPCOR’s mission is to “facilitate PET plastic recycling and promote the usage of PET packaging.” “PET” stands for polyethylene terephthalate, a plastic resin and a form of polyester. PET products are labeled with the number one code on the bottom of bottles and containers. Examples include juice containers, peanut butter jars, salad dressing bottles, and household cleaners.

Best in show?

NAPCOR has a fashion show kit they lend to organizations to demonstrate how recycled PET can be used to make many products we might not normally associate with plastics. These items include T-shirts, long underwear, shoes, sweaters, fiber for polyester carpet, sleeping bags, winter coats, and more. From baby blue polyester leisure suits to Patagonia jackets, the first section of our fashion show demonstrates the recycled fashions that we see around us everyday.

The second part of the show features the best finds of used and vintage clothes. This part is being coordinated by Ragtime Clothing, an eclectic vintage/thrift store in Providence. In this section, we are demonstrating that perhaps the best fashions are not found in department stores and on professional runways, but are hidden away in second-hand stores. These clothes are special treasures, because not only do they reuse old clothes and save new resources, they also celebrate a time in the past.

But it is the third part of the fashion show that we are most excited about. This section features clothing made by local designers, from professionals to those who sew their own clothes as a hobby. All designers have somehow incorporated recycled products into their clothes. We have managed to gather quite an extensive collection of recycled fashions, from shirts, dresses, and pants made from old T-shirts (including a fabulous country-western dress made from, that’s right, old country-western T-shirts) to dresses made from crushed beer cans and a skirt knitted out of plastic bags. We also have hats made of cereal boxes, skirts made from old corduroy pants and blankets, and our favorite, the “lemon dress” — an old green dress decorated with broken plastic lemons, made by a high school student. Like that enterprising youth, all of our designers have lent an excitement to this show that is all their own.

Stay tuned this week as I share all the details of our preparation and what it takes to put together a fabulous recycled fashion show. This is our first time organizing something like this, so it should prove to be an interesting week!