Trashion Fashion: A Sonoma Tradition

sonoma community center trashion fashion runway show

"There's no wrong way or right way - just fit for the runway!"              

  – Sonoma Trashion Icon artist, G. Spencer Morton

This April 22, Escama Studio is hitting the runway with a  one-of-a-kind dress and pop top kimono in the Sonoma Community Center's 13th Annual 'Trashion Fashion Sonoma'. The Earth Day 'Trashion' show is a fashion design competition that brings together art, fashion and ecology. Here to tell more is Sonoma Community Center's Engagement Director, Molly Spencer.

What Is ‘Trashion'?

Escama: Hi Molly, how do you define 'Trashion Fashion'?

Molly: It’s pushing the limits of what you can do with found material, or items that are considered trash that otherwise might not be able to be recycled. How can we manipulate materials that are unconventional and turn them into wearable or theatrical wearable art? What shapes can we create to make trash fashionable and make the viewer take a second look!

trashion fashion runway show
Photo: Melinda Kelley Photography
Escama: So you could say, trashion fashion is basically found-object wearable art?

Molly: Designs could be avante-garde, over-the-top wearable art but they could also be ready-to-wear garments that are passable for actual clothing items. 

Escama: For your competition, can any material be used to make trashion?

Photo: Melinda Kelley Photography

Molly: All designs must be made of materials that have been previously used, rescued from the trash or recycling bin or previously used and purchased at a thrift store. We ask that participants do not use materials that have not been previously used, even if you consider them trash. (For example: brand new garbage bags, an unopened package of plastic cups, etc.)  Also, no glitter (as tempting as it may be)!

Is 'trashion design' only for design students?

Escama: Is this fashion show only for people with design backgrounds?

Molly: No, it has never been limited to designers. This runway show -- unlike what you might find in a college or high school design or fashion program that is all students and designers -- is open the public starting at the age of 9 years old. 'Democratizing the runway' is how we put it best! Trained designers, makers, and artists do participate and they bring a next-level eye to their creations. We find this to be inspiring and it challenges the skills of those who may be new to the Trashion Runway show.

Photo: Melinda Kelley Photography

Escama: You have 9 year olds in the competition! So is this something that everyone can do?

Molly: Absolutely! You just need an open mind and a willingness to explore. As our Trashion Runway judge, Debra Rapoport says: “Where there is creativity, there are no rules and when there are no rules - there is no fear.” Debra is a New York City Trashion Legend and this will be her 3rd time participating. She will also teach workshops as part of our series of events. 

Escama: It's touching to see how the community in Sonoma has gotten involved in this event.

Molly: Trashion Fashion Sonoma was born out of the Sonoma Community Center and it was always meant to invite and involve the public. 13 years ago it was mainly adult artists who showed up but we’ve opened it up to kids over 9 through our guided Trashion Design classes. It became almost like a rite of passage and an outlet for kids and teens to enter Trashion Fashion. Not only was it a way to share their voice, but instills a confidence in them that you may not see until after the show. It has built many a portfolio for teens that are seeking entry into art colleges or other avenues of the creative art and fashion worlds.  Several years ago, we worked with an art teacher up at Art quest Santa Rosa high school in which they were putting on their own trashion fashion show. We visited the school, worked with them through the creation process; the three or four top creations walk in the Sonoma show. Many students were inspired by their experience and have returned (like this year!) as individual designers to present their own looks.

A program we have at the Sonoma Community Center in partnership with Positive Images is the monthly Queer Art Club.  This year we have hosted Trashion Fashion Barbies in which they have materials and the freedom to create a trashion outfit for the Trashion Barbies exhibit. We want to make sure Trashion is accessible to an all and make sure that diverse communities are represented and have the opportunity to share their creative voices in Trashion.  This is a core mission of the Sonoma Community Center. 

Escama: What other events are planned as part of Trashion Sonoma?

Molly: We have The Trashion Fashion Show -- a fully realized theatrical experience; then we have designs of Trashion Barbies -- it offers a smaller scale for all ages; and finally we have Dogs on the Catwalk -- it's just a completely fun spectacle!

Escama: This is your 13th year -- how do you define success?

Molly: Our purpose is to build and nurture a vibrant community – which we define as one where every individual feels celebrated for who they are, everyone has opportunities to grow, and all are welcome. I think the success of Trashion Fashion's sustainability events is there an accessible avenue for all. You do not need to be a fine artist. You do not need to be a professional designer. There is a universal concern of our planet’s health, climate crisis but taking something serious and bring creative fun is often the first dip into making art out of trash.

Explore more Trashion links!

Sonoma Community Center

Trashion Icon Episode 9

Debra Rapoport Instagram

Trashion Show Fundraiser for Ding Darling Preserve

Sonomo Community Center Equity Charter

Sara Basehart Trashion Designer

 The Mad Genius of Designer Chris March





1 comment

  • Cindy Legorreta

    Still wearing the dazzling pop tab necklaces I purchased some years ago from ESCAMA. I am now retired (from NYC) to New Orleans, and in my mid 70’s. BTW I have revisited my lifelong love of sewing. I create miniature hats. These dainty little masterpieces are crafted, using recycled fabric, beads, restored feather trim, used ribbon, and each felt square – is made from repurposed plastic water bottles. Who says recycled can’t be adorable??

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