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Fashion Sense and Sensibility

At Santa Clara University, sustainability is always in style. For some visual proof of that, take a look at what’s coming down the runway at the third annual Eco-Fashion Show on Thursday, April 25.

Hosted by the University’s Office of Sustainability in partnership with the de Saisset Museum, the show features original designs by students and alumni who use only recycled materials for their creations. Highlights of past shows have included clothing made of newspapers, pop tops from aluminum cans, plastic bags and even old VCR film.


“This year, the focus will be on really making it wearable,” explained Lindsey Cromwell Kalkbrenner, director of the Office of Sustainability. “Students can use elements of ‘trash’ in interesting ways, but we’d like to see designs that re-purpose fabrics for everyday wear.”


Fashion show participants should not spend any money on their handiwork, she said. “The idea is to demonstrate how to extend the life of clothing by creating outfits from previously used material.” For example, a student designer could take an old piece of clothing and give it an attractive, stylish update. Or, a designer could stitch up something new using fabric scraps from the SCU costume shop at no cost.


“The costume shop is an amazing resource for us,” noted Michelle Tang, a senior Environmental Science major who launched the fashion show while serving as the SCU Green Club president in her sophomore year. For that first show, Tang enlisted the help of Joanne Martin, lecturer and costume shop supervisor with the Department of Theatre and Dance, who held a one-hour workshop to teach fashion show participants basic sewing and design skills.


The workshops have continued each year, and Tang has plans to build on the idea. “We will be having an extended designer workshop series, where we will be covering more topics over a three-week period so that our designers are truly learning more about sewing,” she explained. The longer sessions will help them “develop skills that they can take with them after they are done with the show.”


For the first time, the Eco-Fashion Show will be held at the de Saisset in conjunction with the museum’s College Night. And, this year, planners hope the audience will take away useful pieces of information about how clothes are made and the impacts of the fashion industry on sustainability.


“We’ll be delivering those messages in different ways during the evening,” said Cromwell Kalkbrenner. “For instance, after the show the models will mingle with guests and explain their designs; it’s a great way to interact with and reach different segments of the campus population.”


The tone, she stressed, will be in keeping with the fun and entertaining aspects of the event. “We simply want to help people understand that it’s OK to go shopping and buy new clothes, but you don’t have to get sucked into a cycle of consumerism. You can shop for locally made clothing that’s created to last; if you buy things you’re in love with, you can wear them for a long time.”

Swap for Good
Along with the fashion show, another April event also promotes the idea of giving new life to old clothes. Swap for Good is a nationwide clothing collection and exchange project that benefits community organizations and provides a fun shopping experience for the SCU community. The Office of Sustainability and Santa Clara Community Action Program are sponsoring the local event.


During the week of April 15, anyone with unwanted, usable clothing (and other items, such as shoes, children’s books, and toys) can drop donations in bins around campus and in RLC lobbies. “It’s a good opportunity for kids to get a jump on cleaning their closets before they move out in June,” said Cromwell Kalkbrenner. “Also, last year, SCU coaches cleared out their storage lockers and lots of local schools benefited from some nice sports equipment.”


The items with high community value—like sports equipment, children’s clothing, prom dresses, and socks for the homeless—are sent directly to agencies supporting those in need. Everything else is sorted and put on display in the Swap for Good “store,” located in the Benson Parlors. On Monday, April 22, and Tuesday, April 23, students, staff, faculty, and community members are invited to shop for “new to you” treasures.


Shopping hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and from 2 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday. Also featured at the Swap for Good event will be an Eco-Art Show with works using recycled materials and created by SCU students.

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