by Mel A. James ~ photos by Jared Kellogg Photography ~
If you’ve never attended an upcycled fashion show, then you might imagine a scenario of outfits that look like … garbage. While some of the creations at these events might have identifiable origins as discarded refuse, many of the materials that make up the dresses and accessories have been transformed in such a way that they stand on their own. The point of these fashion shows is to see the potential in items often defined as no longer useful, and to have a whole lot of creative fun in the process. And nobody does it better than Taos’s own Glam Trash Fashion Show.
Started 16 years ago by educator Nicole Kowalski and Jean Nichols of Art from the Heart (a community creative and health care program), the event has remained an annual happening for most of that time. The two founders have worked as unpaid volunteers since its inception, and recently gained another co-organizer in Sara Baseheart (Seconds Eco Store) in 2012. Baseheart, who enters her own creations at other regional shows (conflict of interest precludes her from entering in Taos) has won first place at Santa Fe two years in a row, and has also earned top honors in Albuquerque. In addition, all proceeds of her winnings she gives back to Glam Trash for production costs and to help supplement the cash prizes, as this is a competitive event, as well.
Described as “glamtastic,” this free all-ages event has remained a showcase for Taos’s flair for creative expression and our penchant for environmentalism. The event itself is lively, with live music accompaniment and high audience attendance. The costumes on display every year can range from sophisticated to outlandish.
Some of the creations are more formal: I’ve seen ball gowns and wedding dresses on the runway; other times I’ve witnessed costumes that are barely there, titillating in their scarcity. Sometimes the outfits resemble something futuristic or apocalyptic and the accessories run the gamut from hats and headgear to masks and capes. And the hair and makeup is rarely neglected, with every consideration made to enhance the overall look.
The materials used are staggering in their variety. As Baseheart tells me, “We’ve seen outfits from many unexpected materials, including rubber tires, tea bags, Netflix envelopes, license plates, credit cards, catheter tubes, telephones, bill-boards, fruit bags and plastic bubble wrap.” And I can personally attest to seeing lampshades, aluminum cans, coffee cups, egg cartons, keys and compact discs. The general rule is to adorn oneself in the type of object that might be deemed no longer useful and would normally end up in a landfill or recycling bin, and it seems that every year, something surprising turns up as a work of wearable art.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term “upcycled,” it usually refers to taking a discarded object and transforming into something new, while the term “recycled” means to break the object down and return its form to raw material. To put it an-other way: to recycle a glass bottle means that bottle could get crushed or melted down, but if one were to upcycle that glass bottle, it would retain most of its original form and be created into another, often useful object, like a lamp. Upcycling could be described as the more creative and innovative cousin to recycling. The Glam Trash Fashion Show is considered upcycling: how items that might normally end up in a landfill or recycling bin can find new life as apparel.
This year’s show is sponsored by the Town of Taos, Seconds Eco Store, Art from the Heart, and The Taos News and will be held on Taos Plaza.
When I spoke with Baseheart about the future of the event, she said, “We have hope that next year we can blossom into a weekend-long recycled arts and crafts festival with a free children’s crafting aspect as well as a competitive recycled fine arts show.” If the long-running success of the current model is any indication, the event will likely continue to grow. Come experience this high “trashion” event, Sept. 17, 4-6 p.m. on Taos Plaza.
Glam Trash Fashion Show
September 17, 2016
TAOS MAGAZINE | SEPTEMBER 2016