Project Upcycle

My mom once told me I had to taste a beer for what it is and not as I wanted it to be. I am more of a beautiful wine kind of girl; I’m the type of girl who wears pearls and drinks champagne from crystal and thinks it’s utterly incredible. I keep going back to that one thing my mom has said because over and over I find myself in situations where I want it to be so much more, but I do not honestly see things for what they are. I see things for what they aren’t and what I want them to be. I am a girl with expectations, and sometimes the bar is too high. I am learning to see things as they are and appreciate them for that.

I recently had the pleasure of going to a community fashion show called Project Upcycle. It was not at all what I expected, but more than I had hoped. It was a small runway event, featuring new designers, focused on sustainable fashion. It was a project that put each of these contestants under pressure to achieve the best look with thrift store finds. The winner received 1500 dollars and cool bragging rights for the New England area.

Let’s start from the very beginning, from the very outside. This was nothing like the San Francisco fashion shows I have been to. This one was in a rustic, red-brown looking building, with a giant 3S on the front. This art building was once an antique shop, which makes a lot of sense now looking back at the building. I get to the front entrance and just stand to stare around. I’ve always been more of an observer. I find when you let people talk to you, and you listen, and I mean truly listen, you find out much more than you ever needed to know about an event or person.

I came with my mom who is much more friendly and approachable, she heads through the crowd to put her coat on a rack, which is ticked in the corner of the first room. We wait around for someone who works there tells us it’s time to check in. Then we start waddling our way up to the desk. We pull out our tickets, mine printed and moms on her phone, get checked in and grab little tokens that have a green recycle symbol on them.

We head to the first room, and it got bright high blue lights hanging from the ceiling. Eight bright lights on each side of the room, and eight dresses down the middle of the room. Before I even stop to look at the direction, we head to the bar, totally unprofessional but 100% needed. We grab our first drink and watch the crowd as they all rush in. We are packed like sardines, and it is stuffy. We go and check out the dresses.

One of my absolute favorites was by a designer named Chloe Larochelle, chose to show a mustard yellow turtleneck blouse and embellished it with beads down the front and back along the neck. She added a slit to the front and opened the back of the waist. She added a flower embroidered navy-blue skirt to it. I think what stuck with me the most, not the outfit itself, but the attention to detail she put into each piece, you could tell with this one, that she had more time to think about it and put all her effort in this outfit. It didn’t go unnoticed.

The second one in the room that caught my eye was from a designer named Jackiellen Bonney. Let’s take a moment, and just praise that name. She already sounds famous. Her design caught my eye because it was unconventional. It was not the average standard of beauty. The first thing that drew me to this dress was the material, right off the bat you could tell it was not upcycled from a blouse or anything else. My first guess was a construction vest, thick coarse material she had manipulated into what she wanted. This intrigued me more; I had to touch it, it was indeed thick, but not like a construction vest, more like a tarp. I told my mom I had thought of the game cat and mouse you play as kids. You blow the tarp up and have the kids go under the tarp. I later find out, from the designer’s mother, that it was a hot air balloon! How unique and clever.

After we stand in line for twenty minutes to get our second drink (those bartenders made tons), we headed into the second room, and I immediately head to where the cameraman is with his tripod. He was from the Portsmouth chronical, and I knew wherever he was I needed to be. Most videographers know where to get the best angles and lighting for good shots.

The stage was short; it reminded me of a comedy club set up. A small T, judges on one side, and host on the other, letting the models come out by the host, walk down the strip and back to the judges. A small walk, perfect for beginners.

There was only one model who caught my eye; his name was Elias. Oh boy, could he walk! Tyra Banks would have been proud of this young man; I was blown away by his long limbs and the way he was able to work them. In no other setting would his flailing and arms be socially acceptable, but he found the one place he could accomplish it. This young man was terrific, anything and everything that comes his way will be glamorous.

At the end of the walk, we all took that little recycling token, that my mom mistook for a drink token, and voted for our favorite designer. I wasn’t astounded by any of the designs that were on stage, but I went for the girl that interviewed the best, and who also happened to have a model that could walk the walk. I voted for Jackiellen Bonney.

However, this was a small community event, and a lot of people knew everyone, and it seemed to be that the more connections you had at this event, the more likely you are to have a winning chance. The judges on had a few critiques, mostly all the same, about transformation. I was more focused on the small interview, what their design process was like, and I like the two that stated collaboration with the model was huge. Kudos to them you’re real designers.

The winner was not the young lady I voted for. In fact, it was the person I would have voted for, if I hadn’t been blown away by Jackiellen’s model. His name was Justin Desper, and his model was a tall blonde rocking a punk-themed dress. It was a leather vest that led down to a like floral midsection, and a lampshade shaped triangle patterned bottom. The dress rocked, it was new and unique, but the model should have worked the stage. She had the looks, had the dress, and I wanted her to work it way more than she did.

In my mind fashion either needs to blow you away and make you think “What the fuck am I looking at?” or it must be so beautiful you want to cry because it’s like seeing a piece of the most beautiful art in the world. This was not in either of those categories, but it was fun. It wasn’t a super serious event; it was meant to show off new designers and get to know the community better.
Overall it was fun, and I’m glad I went. I’m happy to learn about new people and support their dreams, raise a little money. I think overall if these designers keep working, and put care into their work, learn how to market themselves they could make it far in the New England area.


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