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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Recycled Runway

Air Date: Week of

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Rhode Island designers and artists create hot new fashions from old clothes and recycled materials. Living on Earth's Cynthia Graber reports.


CURWOOD: You're listening to NPR's Living on Earth. Recycling clothes is nothing new. Hand-me-downs and donations breathe new life into suits that no longer suit us or, in some cases, no longer fit us. But now, one person's trash can be another's fashion treasure. Living on Earth's Cynthia Graber reports from the recycling runway.

MAN: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first Runway Earth, recycled fashions for a sustainable world.


GRABER: It was standing room only at the Recycled Fashion Show in Providence, Rhode Island. The mostly young, mostly jeans-clad crowd packed into a local art gallery and cafe. Images of birds, landfills and recycling sorters flashed onto a screen on stage.

WOMAN: Without further ado, we will start part one.

GRABER: From fleece capes to doctor's scrubs, models sashayed down the runway in clothing spun from recycled plastic.

WOMAN: Seth is featuring a white polo-style shirt and a Patagonia jacket and safety vest. And believe it or not, all the things that Seth is wearing on top are made from recycled plastic bottles.


GRABER: Next up: vintage outfits scavenged from used clothing stores. Fashions range from '70's polyester leisure suits to dresses from the '30's. Perfect for a romantic rendezvous at the train station.

Laura K DressDesigner Laura Kranitz, made
this outfit from reused clothing.


GRABER: Then came the most creative segment of the show. Local clothing designers and artists dug into used clothing stores and sometimes trash cans to come up with their own recycled couture. A tall brunette wore a sleek black gown pieced together from country-western t-shirts. Faces of men and women peered out at odd angles: a dress that would attract attention at any event.

WOMAN: Let's bring on Beth.


WOMAN: Beth is ready to ride, ladies and gentlemen.

GRABER: In a bit of Oscar de la Renta meets Oscar of Sesame Street, one scantily clad woman strolled out in an outfit made entirely from bicycles. Rubber from used tires doubled as a tight skirt while the model's top was bound together with gears. Designers told me a hot glue gun was used to secure the dress around her. And lest you think this show was purely about fashion.


Cereal Box DressCereal box dress made from woven strips
cereal boxes. Designer Heather Gaydos.

WOMAN: Every year millions of pounds of textiles are thrown away and they go to waste in landfills. By giving your clothes to charity or consigning them to consignment shops, you keep the cycle going and you never know.

GRABER: Audience members had high praise for recycled fashion.

WOMAN: I thought it was very New York.

MAN: My favorite look was the short skirt with the little boy blazer and the slouchy boots.

WOMAN: I'd wear the cereal box skirt - yeah, very cute.


GRABER: My personal favorite? The lemon dress. Large ovals of yellow and sheer green plastic, cut from lemon bottles, adorned a knee-length garment. The effect? A shimmer of springtime colors. Unusual, wearable, definitely cutting edge. Oh, and recyclable too. For Living on Earth, I'm Cynthia Graber.



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