Paper, or Plastic? "Both!" said the designers

Release Date: 4/19/2012

Wednesday, April 18, the Rogers Conference Center was the scene of what can only be described as one of the most unique fashion shows you could ever imagine.

The Recycled Fashion Show was an idea that OzARTs president Elizabeth di Paola brought to the professors in the Ozarks Art department. As the members of the art club brainstormed with the professors, they decided to turn the event into a competition and to open up the recycled design entries to anyone on campus. The resulting fashion show featured twelve one-of-a-kind outfits created from recycled or re-purposed materials, including newspaper, plastic grocery bags, garbage bags, and soda bottles to name just a few.

Now if you're wondering just how "good" clothing made from these materials could be, there's really only one word to describe them - fabulous! The 8 designers whose work was featured in the show pulled out all the stops to create designs that brought round after round of loud cheers and enthusiastic applause from the audience of approximately 150 people.

As the beat of "Fashionista" filled the air, model Rikki Runyan came to the stage wearing a 17th and 18th Century-inspired dress made from Walmart bags, potting soil bags, and Coke tabs. The dress, designed by Jessica Bowen, was painted to make it opaque, and was fitted over a cardboard hoop. Rikki's outfit was completed with a pair of recovered heels.

Model Alex Cannon wore a dress designed by James Storer. Made from newspaper and glass, Storer said his inspiration was the late English designer Alexander McQueen, known for his tendency to juxtapose strength with fragility. Storer's design used paper flowers to create a rough, but elegant look.

The third design was created by Anaeli Rodas, and was constructed from used order tickets from the university's Eagle's Nest Cafe. Modeled by Brianny Pupo, the dress was composed of origami shapes combined into a geometric pattern which Rodas said created an armor of protection to the body while showing off the spectacular woman's shape.

Model Andie Morrison took the stage next, modeling a dress designed by Abby Kern using an old swim raft and Walmart bags. Kern described the dress as playful, bright, and fun, all symbolic of the feelings invoked by the bright pink raft.

Alejandro Cordoba entertains.

Alejandro Cordoba got the crowd pumped to see the winning fashion with his spirited lip-sync performance.

Stephanie Tillman designed and modeled the next dress in the show. Made of newspaper and recycled paper, the dress was an elegant strapless mermaid dress with a wide bottom. Tillman said the design captured the beauty of an elegant dress with the dynamism of a celebration.

Food wrappers and packaging were two of the materials designer and model Rikki Runyan used for the next outfit in the show. The simple halter-top bikini also incorporated cardboard, scraps of string, plastic bags, and (maybe, Runyon said) an old dry-rotted fish net. She said the design celebrated the spirit of spring and summer with a classic swim-style, while at the same time commenting on the itemization of women as products to be consumed.

Another design by James Storer was modeled by Codie Freeman. Storer said the dress, created from used wine corks and newspaper, was originally supposed to be a flapper dress, but the long lines and the movement of the corks captured his imagination, resulting in his unique design.

Emily Gorham appeared to float across the stage in a dress designed by Jessica Root. Made from recycled produce bags, trash bags, a painter's tarp, water bottles, and the tops of film spools, Root said the dress was inspired by Earth Week and the ocean, specifically the seaweed and the motions created in it by the current.

Cardboard and newspaper were used by designer Abby Kern to create a unique dress modeled by Serena Clokey. Kern said she wanted to create contrast in the sharp lines of the form and the softness of the newspaper, the result being an interesting shape with lots of texture.

Jenny Price modeled the next design, another creation by James Storer. Created from newspaper and glass, the dress has a fun, but elegant side. Storer said the rugged glass shows power and energy while the "poof" of the paper shows a fun side to the creation.

Designed to be a cocktail/party dress, Rikki Runyan's next design was made from garbage bags, packaging paper, and old house paint. She said the dress was a challenging design, focused on and inspired by the aesthetics of the design.

The last model in the show appeared in the doorway to the conference center to wild cheering and applause. The model was none other than Ozarks Professor of English and Humanities, Dr. David Strain, modeling a creation by Ozarks Associate Professor of Art, Tammy Harrington. The outfit, made from newspaper and magazines, was inspired by a figure Harrington said represents a larger than life personality, the Queen of Hearts. Strain, played his part perfectly as he strolled majestically back and forth across the stage - a royal figure who is a foul-tempered monarch with a quickness to anger, who is passionate, and is quick to decree death sentences at the slightest offense in which she utters the phrase “Off with her head!”

As judges Dr. Kim Van Scoy, Jamie Hedges, and Ozarks First Lady Sherée Niece left the room to discuss the merits of each fashion creation, Alejandro Cordoba took the stage to entertain the audience with some spirited lip-sync performances. The models and designers then made their final walk across the stage, as the judges handed their decision to Harrington.

Earning honorable mention was Stephanie Tillman for her strapless mermaid dress made from newspaper and recycled paper. 

Third place went to Abby Kern for her cardboard and newspaper dress modeled by Serena Clokey. How many newspaper flowers did Kern put on the cardboard skirt? "I have no idea," laughed Kern. "I spent hours wrapping newspaper around a pen to make them."

Anaeli Rodas earned second place for her "order tickets" dress, modeled by Brianny Pupo. She said she got the idea for her design when she noticed the pink and white order tickets used at the Eagle's Nest Cafe. "I liked the color," she said, "and I thought 'I think this would work.' So I just started saving them." The tickets were folded into hundreds of origami flowers. "I had all my friends making them," Rodas said.

The judges loved the ocean wave effect created as Emily Gorham walked across the stage wearing the dress designed by Jessica Root. The design earned first place for Root, a senior Art major. "I have a senior exhibit, and I was making jellyfish out of the bags," said Root. The produce-bag jellyfish tentacles gave Root the idea for her dress. "I thought 'It doesn't look that bad,'" she said.

"We had a good mix of art and non-art major entries," Harrington said after the show. While the show organizers originally planned to have only student entries, Harrington said she decided to make a design or her own to show support for OzARTs and her students. "I asked Dr. David Strain to be my model and he heartily accepted," she said. "He made a great model because he did not have any objections to my design or makeup ideas!"

Harrington added that organizing and putting on the fashion show was an awesome experience. "The students who participated (Elizabeth Di Paola, Abby Kern, Brittany Green, James Storer, Dylan Eakin, Matt Wellborn, and Dereana Pfeiffer) stepped up to the bat and they were the ones that made the event run so smoothly," she said. "Dawn Holder was also a great help. While I was busy getting Dr. Strain ready for the show, she filled in the gaps in the Fashion show prep. I was also so impressed by all the Fashion Show entries. The students were so creative and inventive with their use of recycled and reused materials. It was a fun night and it went better than I would have imagined!"

Winners of the Ozarks Recycled Fashion Show.

Winners in the Ozarks Recycled Fashion Show, held on April 18, were Abby Kern (third place winner, with model Serena Clokey), Anaeli Rodas (second place winner, with model Brianny Pupo) and Jessica Root (first place winner, with model Emily Gorham).