Re-fashion Collage

Boston, MA

Contact Name
Karen Weber
Project Dates
August 16-18, 2019
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2019
Tags
Marketing, Land conservation/use, Entrepreneurship, Design, Workforce Development
This program is a very special part of our larger event, Boston GreenFest. Every year, we run the EcoFashion Show in partnership with The House of Nahdra, based in Roxbury, along with several local designers and local organizations. Last year we started a new partnership with Lasell College's Department of Fashion Design. A majority of the models, makeup artists and hair stylists are from local Boston neighborhoods including Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury. The unique aspect of this event is that it inspires everyone who is involved to re-use their clothes in creative ways. This has led to the creation of new designs and new designers while helping make the planet a better place to live.

Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
Re-fashion our Community is designed to:
1. Involve all members of our community in understanding the importance of the textile industry and how we, through our clothes, can make a difference to the planet by upcycling, recycling and buying less.
a. We do this by involving diverse designers who take the planet into account when they upcycle or re-style clothing.
b. We do this by bringing models of all skin colors and body types to the stage.
c. We do this by bringing together a group of creative people who together inspire each other, young and old, to think creatively about ways to design, sell and wear fashion.
d. We want to help small fashion businesses grow.
e. We want to give experience to young women and men who are considering joining the industry.
f. We want to provide opportunities for people to gain experience under the brilliant direction of Nahdra of The House of Nahdra who has an affinity for connecting and motivating all who come into her midst.
2. Create a creative economic pathway for re-fashioning our community in the way clothing is perceived, designed, worn and sold.
a. Introduce designers to new customers and new possibilities.
b. Introduce fashion students to a diverse fashion community.
c. Create collaborative network of designers and entrepreneurs.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
Fashion is not fixed in time, nor are our goals. We began by helping our audience understand the definition of eco-fashion. Then we added the importance of eco-friendly fabrics, the use of remnants, and the re-use of garments to make new items through upcycling. Now we are using our stage to help think about consumption and what it takes to alter our buying habits, which are particularly strong when it comes to fashion, given seasonal trends and the power of advertising.

As we learn more about what needs to be done to be better stewards of the planet, we are able to educate others through our EcoFashion Show.

Since fashion as an industry is constantly changing, and the goals of the program evolve, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to present, market and run the show. We continue to seek ways to develop a broader audience to appreciate the show and connect with our message.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
Over time the show has had different leaders and influences. Mela Bush Miles was our first director in 2009, bringing eco-friendly wedding gowns and headwraps made from remnants to our stage. In 2010, Rhonda Fazio led the charge with handmade scarves made from local flax and dyes from native plants. Nancy and Mary Savoca, founder of Ash & Rose, took the next round bringing clothes made from organic cotton and bamboo to the stage. Designer Daniel Hernandez raised the bar the following year with upcycled fashions hailing from Newbury Street, particularly with our partner, Savers. Also, Angelique (Angie) Brutus came on board as a budding fashion student and over the next years brought elements of youthful colors and thrift-shopping to the stage. Priya Samant launched her remnant-based accessory social entrepreneur company at Boston GreenFest and has been a fabulous ambassador. Since 2013, Nahdra Ra of The House of Nahdra has taken the helm. She brings a far greater element of upcycling and re-styling to our stage. Nothing is wasted in her studio or that of the other designers we bring. Sass Brown, author of EcoFashion and professor at FIT in New York, came to our stage in 2014. We have also been fortunate to have Nathalia JMag with us for the past two years as a finalist at Project Runway, she has brought more media attention to us and she has helped us with planning. Every year, we hold numerous meetings to discuss the direction, theme, format of the show. Last year, Lasell College joined us. Some meetings were held at Lasell College, others were at Boston City Hall at our planning meetings, others were in Roslindale at the office of Boston GreenFest/Foundation for a Green Future and others were at The House of Nahdra in Roxbury, MA. At each meeting, each constituency was represented - designers, community partners, planners, organizers. Here is the list of those involved this year:

Nahdra Ra, The House of Nahdra - director of the show
--coordinated an entire team of models, designers, makeup artists and hair stylists
Mela Bush Miles, Mela Amorosa Fashions - assistant director - planning and assisting with entire process
Nathalia JMag, designer - showed a fashion line, helped organize and think things out
Maritza Farrell, Lasell College, Professor of Fashion - helped bring students from Lasell to the program and assisted at the event
Lynn Blake, Lasell College, Professor of Fashion - helped us think out the theme for the program
Anne Trevenen, Lasell College, Fashion Show Coordinator for the College - helped us plan out our show this year, "10 black dresses" idea
--we showed how one quality item in one's wardrobe can go a long way so no need to fill the closet with so many clothes.
Barbara Muhenje, Hult International School of Business, Marketing Assistant Intern - social media, traditional media, website
Coco Lucero, EcoFashion Intern from University of Colorado - helped with marketing, inviting sponsors, vendors, and 10 black dresses
Katherine Burke, EcoFashion Intern from Rhode Island School of Design, created the digital backdrop
Josh Cohen, Event Management Intern - helped with marketing, vendors, website and was a model
Donalyn Stephenson, FABLabs for America - helped with 10 black dresses, rallied Dorchester art and innovation community
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
We are working from a grassroots level to create change. The more the word gets out about the beauty of unique fashion through upcycling, re-styling and zero waste production, as well as the potential creation of clothing swap parties, thrift shops and earth-friendly fabrics, the more people will start a pathway to creating new design lines, pop-up shops and community entrepreneurship. Further, the success of the EcoFashion Show has brought more attention to our overall event, Boston GreenFest, garnering media attention from the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, Channel 5 news and other outlets. It helps bring in a larger crowd and more people connect not only with the EcoFashion Show, but with Boston GreenFest as an important city event striving to inspire its attendees to do their part. Our festival has given rise to numerous eco-friendly companies and helped present new products/ideas/services to our attendees. The EcoFashion show is not only helping to RE-fashion our wardrobes, but our thinking, and our community.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
We were motivated to do something about the devastating numbers re: the unnecessary use of water, toxic chemicals, and unfair labor practices along with the high cost of carbon output and enormous waste when it comes to the fashion industry. We knew we needed to find a way to turn things around. Project Runway's funky designs using recycled materials and Sass Brown's work on EcoFashion helped inspire us. The members of our community - Nahdra, Mela, Daniel, Angie, Nathalia, Maritza - are motivators and connectors. They make us aware of the many creative members of our diverse community and help bring them forward. We believe that it does not take much money to start an eco-friendly design business, it is through human creativity that can lead to the designs and small companies that can make a difference. Then this projects out across our city and society.

Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
This project has taken years to develop. We began with an idea to educate about the fashion industry. Our first year, we brought one young designer to the stage with Barbie dolls dressed in apparel she made from remnants, Eco-Green wedding dresses and head wraps made from silk. The second year we had some designers show wearable recycled art made from leftover candy wrappers, chip bags, beer tabs along with clothes that were handmade from native plants. The next few years we showed how clothing made from eco-friendly fabrics were as stylish as those that were not. Savers became our partner and we set up a wonderful opportunity for our designers - a kind of Project Runway event whereby the designers would line up at the front door with a cart and had up to one hour to fill the cart with items from the store. They had to go back to their studios to create upcycled fashions to showcase on the stage. This was the turning point for us - to begin to let people know how important it was to re-use our clothing as opposed to buying new. This past year, Lasell College helped us bring the point home one more notch. We showcased 10 black dresses, each with a different twist - formal, informal, as a top with leggings… This sent a message to everyone that it is not necessary to have lots of items in one’s closet, but instead have some quality items that can be used in different ways and accessorized according to need. Alongside the steps to actually create the show, our work to promote it is shifting from traditional media to social media. However, word of mouth and direct marketing are still very important channels.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
We are still learning. The steps we have taken with the show change direction with the person or persons in charge; the information we glean about fashion, the environment and fashion trends; and new ideas about how to approach these challenges. We also continue to learn as new people step up and the overall festival takes on new meaning: from a festival that talks about what it means to be “green” to one that seeks to activate its attendees to make a difference.
Obstacles
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
Four major obstacles: we are all volunteers, funds are minimal, time is always against us and marketing the event is always a challenge!
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Somehow, the director, designers and fashion team manage to rise to the occasion and with the help of adrenaline, make this amazing event happen.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Find creative committed people willing to work as a team.
Set out your message and goals at the start.
Create a timeline and try your best to hold to it.
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
We have helped to motivate the people in our community to think differently about fashion, not only on an environmental and economic level, but on an artistic and multicultural one. We bring many perspectives to our stage - with designers with backgrounds from Africa, South America, the Caribbean, Asia and Europe. We put models on the stage of all ages, skin colors, body types and genders. We have encouraged designers both young and old to play a part. On a personal note, my own daughter (daughter of the Executive Director) was able to explore her own designs and participate in the decision-making process from the age of 9 until now. Nahdra’s daughter is following suit. They have both become committed to a world where eco-fashion is how they see the world of fashion moving forward. The impact these two young women will have and the impact our project has had on the community, is as far-reaching as each person is willing to take it. The more people we get involved, the more far-reaching that will be.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
We believe it speaks for itself due to both the broad and specific impacts the show has on its participants and attendees, as well as on the broader tie to Boston GreenFest as an economic, environmental and community motivator.

How did you measure this success or progress?
The measure is through the fact that each year builds on the one prior, that designers and small businesses continue to gain momentum starting out at Boston GreenFest, and that people continue to be inspired by fashion that is re-fashionable.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
1. This year a company (whose founder got his inspiration from his first visit in 2016 to Boston GreenFest) from India arrived at our event to showcase its eco-friendly fashions. The success of our event has gone beyond our borders and is already influencing people in other parts of the world
2. One year we hosted a wedding on our stage and the wedding gown was upcycled from a dress the bride/designer found at Savers! The story about the event and the dress was written up in the Boston Herald.
3. Two young Latino entrepreneurs who designed t-shirts discovered the importance of eco-fashion and changed their business model to organic cotton and upcycled clothing.
4. The direct impact it would have on our children.