Project Greenway: Fashion History

CATWALK 1Scheduled conveniently between New York Fashion Week in mid-February and Paris Fashion Week in early March is every fashionista’s favorite: the second annual Project Greenway Fashion Show at Notre Dame Prep. Sponsored by NDP’s Art Department, organized by the Art Honor Society, and open to all students, Project Greenway is an event in which student designers create new and original fashion out of old and recyclable materials. The months long project culminates in the highly anticipated fashion show held in the utilitarian-chic school auditorium. The show is an industry favorite (well, school favorite anyway) and this year’s collection lived up to the hype. There were 14 entries in all and each was a creative tour de force. I’ll take one of everything, thank you very much.

Before the show, the place buzzed with excitement as the auditorium filled up with Coke Dressstudents, staff, and paparazzi (make that papa and mamarazzi…there were a lot of camera-wielding parents in the audience) while, backstage, designers made last minute alterations and models applied dramatic makeup. One model had highly arched, green sequined eyebrows, which added a jeweled effect to an already haute couture look. I thought the saddle shoes she was wearing with her full-length gown added an iconic touch to the overall design but I was told they would be replaced by 4-inch heels once the show began. I guess the designer knows best.

BG2The girls began work on their creations back in October, finding inspiration in what others had discarded and salvaging fashion phoenixes from the ashes of the presumably unsalvageable: packing material, old newspapers, garbage bags, soda cans…their mother’s outré wardrobe from the 80’s.

The designer team of Bridget Thompson, Allie Mulliken, and Julia Mangione created BGB2their to-die-for, ultra chic, mini cocktail dress entirely from coffee filters and bubble gum wrappers, complete with gum wrapper bracelet, belt, and hair band accessories. I asked the girls what their inspiration was.

“Uh, we really, really like to chew gum.”

A rare and fascinating glimpse into the creative minds of a team of up and coming designers! I predict Bazooka Cool will be all the rage this spring. You heard it here first.

Another designer, Edina Hiser, found her inspiration in an old jigsaw puzzle.


“It was missing several pieces and I realized, I’m never going to GC2be able to complete that puzzle again, so, you know… I thought it would make a cool dress,” Edina explained as if it were completely obvious.

And what a fashion game changer it was! No…really. It was literally a game changer. Starting with the puzzle and then adding bits and pieces of old and incomplete game sets – a deck of 48 cards, an old domino, a well worn checker board – Edina fashioned from scratch an eye-popping, scene-stealing, party dress that will have everyone wanting to get in the game. And the dress.

Other creations included:

17A cute little number made from old newspapers and Seventeen Magazines, giving new meaning to the term, “fashion statement.”

PAPERCLIPS An elegant evening gown made from coffee filters spray painted silver and gold with a paper clip bodice, the entry from last year’s winner, Zoe George.

FASTENERS 2A radical chic, grey and gold, military-meets-music ensemble with Coke can tab fasteners. Zippers are so last year.

FLOUNCY 2 A flouncy dirndl skirt made entirely of pastel post it notes and accessorized with a de rigueur Euro scarf over an old piece of denim salvaged from Mom’s “For Goodwill” bag. The skirt is perfect for any setting on so many levels: taking notes in the office, making a grocery list at home, calculating a tip at your favorite bistro. And unlike most notes you take, you’ll never wonder where you put them. At least, not until you take the skirt off. A skirt for all seasons. And all ages.

PINK & SILVERA tin foil and hot pink crepe paper, empire waist, cocktail dress with a Snapple bottle cap belt that eerily reminded me of my Saville Shop Ring Dance dress from 1969.  Everything old is new again!

If a trend were to be spotted in this year’s collection, perhaps it would be the plastic garbage bag top with duct tape detail, seen on many of the models in a variety of colors.

After months of rummaging through God-knows-what (trash cans, recycling bins, catch TUTU2all closets and drawers, Mom’s “I’ll get to it eventually pile” and Dad’s “I may need that one day box”); after putting their ideas down on paper and doing the hard work of cutting, stitching, gluing, shredding, crushing, pasting, soldering, and – yes – chewing, it was time for the designers and their models to strut their stuff.

PURPLEHonor Society officers and Project Greenway MC’s, Colleen Frerichs and Grace Geary opened the show, working from a script they had written, which was worthy of Tina Fey if not Heidi Klum (a plus in my book). Their comments were followed by a “behind the scenes” documentary, courtesy of the Filmography Club. Sort of “NDP Unzipped.” Finally, the lights went down, the music went up, and the models paraded down the catwalk (aka the auditorium aisle) and onto the stage with confidence and grace. More or less. I am happy to report that not a single model tripped despite the 4-inch heels (although one model was seen carefully taking the stairs to the stage one step at a time). Once on stage, each model twirled a bit, struck a pose, and did her best to do the designer’s creation justice while not taking herself at all seriously.

In fact, the event was so much fun, one almost forgot the whole thing was supposed to be ANNIEa learning experience. So what does creating ready to wear from recycled parts have to do with education? Just about everything. Academically speaking, the girls drew on math, art, engineering, history, and even physics (you try keeping a dress up on a hundred pound frame without the benefit of straps or zipper). Artistically, it gave them a chance to experiment with textiles, fabric, color, and design as well as to study the relationship of those elements to each other. And personally, it taught them lessons in hard-work and independent study and helped them develop self-confidence.

WINNERThe show ended with a big round of applause for all the designers and models and then the student body voted online for their favorite dress. This year’s winner was a truly elegant, peacock green evening gown made from bubble wrap, shredded packing paper and real peacock feathers and designed by one of the event’s organizers, Claire Walker (daughter of NDP art teacher extraordinaire, Anne Walker). Not surprisingly, Claire has a fashion future in mind and has already been accepted for early admission to the University of South Carolina where she will major in fashion merchandising. Claire explains her interest in fashion this way:

“I never, ever thought of myself as a fashion expert. CLAIREBut my friends would always ask my advice so…,” she finished the sentence with a modest shrug. Then, as an afterthought she added,  “It’s a way to express myself artistically.”

And in the end, isn’t that what school is for? To learn, grow, discover, experiment, and express? Where Claire and the other NDP designers go from here is anybody’s guess.

For now, the world is their runway.


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