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What does the apparel industry have to do with health of the planet?



Salt Lake Community College Fashion Institute student Victor Matvienko strutted his stuff on the green carpet Monday, observing Earth Day by taking part in the college’s first ever “Trashion Show.”

Matvienko, completing his first year as a fashion institute student, sported an intricate, short-sleeved patchwork shirt he sewed from fabric scraps that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

Instead, he spent “more than 50 hours” at a sewing machine repurposing scraps into a fashionable shirt with a high-low hem.

“You have intersecting seams so you have to be precise,” he said.

He was among about a dozen rising designers whose creations were modeled on the makeshift runway in a hallway of the community college’s South City Campus.

Some were modeled by their creators, others were modeled by friends, family and fellow students.

Some of the outfits were recycled from thrift stores but one student’s dresses were fashioned from vintage tablecloths, breathing new life into the lace-adorned and embroidered textiles.

Shandi Pearce, also a first-year fashion institute student, repurposed her grandfather’s jeans, which he had intended to donate to charity.

“I said ‘Absolutely not. I can’t let you do that,’” Pearce said.

Heat was used to etch sizable skulls on each of the jean’s legs. “I thought the design was so cool. I said, ‘There’s no way you can donate these. I have to take them,’” she said.

She had saved them for a while and had the opportunity to repurpose them into barrel leg jeans, using another pair of jeans she thrifted for additional fabric.

She completed the look with a men’s shirt she bought from a thrift store, shortening it to fit her body and finishing it with a raw hem.

Pearce said she regularly shops in thrift stores because “I feel kind of guilty like buying something brand new like full price. Mostly, it’s just because I know I can get inspiration from a thrift store and make it into something I actually want to wear. Rather than scouring the internet for something that’s like fitting my interest, I can just make it myself.”

Sustainability matters to Pearce, she said.

“It’s important to take care of the planet we’re living on. We can’t really just go up and go to another planet, you know. So I think it’s important to take care of our landfills and our oceans. And I think it’s kind of pointless to kind of create new products when there’s already clothing that’s existed for like 10 years that we can recycle into something different,” she said.

Fashion Institute instructor Amy Royer, who has taught at SLCC for 11 years, said part of the journey “has been making sustainability a part of the fashion institute. I love it. I love it with every fiber of my being. It is so fun for me to find stuff from the garbage and make it into something new,” she said.

The students got $5 to purchase items from the Goodwill outlet bins, which they restyled and revamped.

Recycling or upcycling clothing saves significant resources and fewer items of apparel end up in landfills, Royer said.

“It takes 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton T-shirt; 1,200 gallons to produce a pair of jeans,” she said.

“We also clear a billion trees each year to produce rayon, which is not a super durable fabric so it doesn’t stick around forever. The number one fabric that we see most in fashion nowadays is our synthetic fibers, specifically polyester. Fiber is not biodegradable, so it will sit in landfills forever,” Royer said.

She offered the following advice: “Consume less. Be stewards of your clothing. If you have to buy, buy second hand.”

The day’s events also included a clothing swap, a workshop on natural dyes and fabric printing and a fix-it clinic with instruction on altering clothing, patching clothing and replacing or repairing zippers.

“Bring to life to those clothes, keep them out of the landfill and out on the streets,” said Peter Moosman, coordinator of SLCC’s Gender & Sexuality Student Resource Center, co-sponsor of the Earth Day events.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the world’s consumers are buying more clothes and wearing them for less time than ever before, discarding garments as fast as trends shift.

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation, a UNEP partner, is spearheading an initiative towards a zero waste world. The foundation estimates a truckload of abandoned textiles is dumped in landfills or incinerated every second. Meanwhile, people are buying 60% more clothes and wearing them for half as long.

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