It was out with the old and in with the new — but with a twist — as a group of newly certified fashion designers strutted down a makeshift runway at their end-of-session show.
The designers, young summer campers at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, spent two weeks learning about textile recycling and waste reduction, while also mastering the basics of sewing.
Combining their lessons, the group first set out to repurpose everyday neckties. After cutting the seams and ironing out the fabric, they transformed the ties into skirts, bags, belts and bracelets.
“You’re not wasting anything because you can just make it into something even better,” said camper Nova Charton, 10, who made a skirt with the ties.
Nova, like most of the students, had minimal experience with sewing before the camp. Under the guidance of instructors from ricRACK, a New Orleans-based sewing and textile recycling nonprofit, the group learned how to read and measure patterns, pin and cut fabrics, and sketch and sew together their designs.
Like the ties, the fabrics used at the camp were donated to ricRACK from a variety of sources, including retailers and film and TV sets.
Alison Parker, ricRACK founder, said increasing the campers’ fashion consciousness was one of her goals when she teamed up with the museum for the camp.
“Sewing isn’t just learning to thread a needle or sew a button,” Parker said. “There is a social responsibility that goes into wearing and making clothes.”
During the fashion show, the group shared facts about textile recycling and its benefits. They explained that recycling keeps textiles from landing in landfills, where they take hundreds of years to decompose.
Additionally, fewer natural resources and chemicals are used to create new clothes when people use what they already have. When designers recycle textiles, they get a cleaner, greener earth in return, the campers agreed.
Ogden’s director of education, Ellen Balkin, said the museum has hosted different variations of the fashion camp over the years. She said Parker’s emphasis on recycling and repurposing aligns well with the museum’s goals.
“It’s about sense of place,” Balkin said. “Exploring the land where we are and learning to take care of it.”
In addition to creating clothes and exploring the museum for inspiration, the girls also took movement classes from choreographer Liese Weber Hammontree, learning how fabrics move and made them feel so they could bring their creations to life.
“They have put their whole heart and soul into this,” Hammontree said. “It’s been fun to watch how they have developed and found their own fashion sense and confidence.”
More sewing to come
Now that their time at fashion camp is over, many of the students said they want to continue taking sewing lessons and creating.
“At the end, it’s really cool to see it all done and remember the beginning when you first started,” said Phoebe Wells, 10. Phoebe, who also likes to crochet, said she was gifted a sewing machine for Christmas and that her next project will be using what she learned to make her cat a bed.
“I’m definitely going to make more skirts,” Nova said. She added that she plans to find things around her house to repurpose for her designs.
Throughout the year, ricRACK offers sewing classes for all experience levels at its brick-and-mortar headquarters at 1927 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. The group also engages in various community outreach programs and offers scholarships for qualifying students.
“What they can dream, they can also go on to create with the sewing machine,” Parker said. “It’s magical to watch 8-year-olds and 10- and 12-year-olds discover this.”