In a sea of H&M’s and Zara’s there’s a progressive subset of designers creating sustainable eco-friendly clothes. Case in point, Hartford-based artists and designers Nina Salazar and Amy Merli of Trashion Fashion. For the first time ever, the Arts Council will feature 1920’s inspired clothes and accessories designed by Trashion Fashion at our annual fundraiser, ARTini this Thursday (RSVP if you haven’t yet!). Read on for our q&a with the inspirational designers, Nina and Amy, and learn what it takes to design fashion from recyclable materials.
1. How did you both get involved with Trashion Fashion?
Amy: I have been producing the Trashion Fashion Show since 2011. With all of its progressions it has transformed from a fashion show fusing together environmentalism and the arts to a platform. Last year we had shows in DC, NYC and in Hartford with close to 100 different designs featuring work by professional designers and students. All designs in the show are made from 90% waste that would otherwise be in the waste stream. It is very important for all designers to consider the life cycle of the garments from material sourcing, production to what happens after events.
The Trashion Fashion Show also features art installations, live music, professional dancers as models and performers, local socially responsible businesses and nonprofits and we give away hundreds of seedlings, seed bombs and plants.
We are also truly committed to educating our youth about sustainability and the importance of arts, creativity and design. We have cross curricular k-12 lesson plans for Trashion and waste based art installations. We also partner with local colleges and other education organizations. Our Trashion Fashion Show has also started a scholarship fund for the Sustainable Farm School.
2. What materials do you use for your designs, and which ones are your favorite?
Amy: I have used a lot of paper materials to create designs but I really love seeing unconventional materials being used. There has been many interesting uses of VHS tape, tin cans, parking tickets and plastic bottles. There is something very inspiring about using an item that is seen as waste (without value) and transforming it into something of beauty.
3. Do you think recyclable clothes and accessories will ever become mainstream? What is your biggest challenge when designing?
Amy: One of our goals as a company is to inspire youth to rethink what is possible. We do this by allowing youth access to our lesson plans and ability to submit designs to our shows. We foresee a future that rethinks the cycle of waste and makes efforts to change it. As well as this mindset empowers the public to choose socially responsible companies with transparent sustainable practices.
I have connected with many zero waste designers, sustainable fashion companies and companies that are using alternative materials for products such as looptworks, terracycle and Ekocyle. This movement is growing every day and it’s exciting. People want to shop for more eco-friendly products and it’s great to see. With websites like trvst educating people about the benefits of sustainable living, it’s no wonder eco-friendly fashion is on the rise.
Designing with alternative materials can be extremely difficult. These materials don’t always mold to the body, feel comfortable for long term use or hold up after a while. It’s part of the challenge.
4. Let’s talk about ARTini, what is your inspiration for the flapper dress?
Nina: To create the flapper dress, I sought inspiration from the clean art deco lines of architecture. For instance, I looked to the clean lines of the G Fox building for influence in some design details. Naturally, I was also influenced by fashions of the era: low-waisted dresses with fullness at the hemline, “shift” styled dresses with no waistline, strong verticals and low cuts. The hand-crafted fringed skirt of the dress took over 14 hours to create.
5. What do you love most about 1920’s fashion?
Nina: I like the boldness, the androgynous or even masculine feminist approach to women’s’ style. It defied the conventions of the previous decade, and of the previous century, in which women were objectified and subjugated via corsets. Women enjoyed the freedom of movement as Jazz and Swing emerged.