| Apr 5, 2023

From trash to fashion: Trashionista/Elsa Leo-Rhynie students may be new rising stars of the design world

Zemelyah Shaw

Zemelyah Shaw / Our Today

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Photos: @ESCEEPhotography

In today’s world, sustainability is becoming increasingly important, and students at Elsa Leo-Rhynie (Towers) Hall at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona have taken it upon themselves to lead by example.

They recently organised an event called Trashionista, which showcased sustainable fashion.

Trashionista centred around the idea of transforming trash into fashionable clothing and the event was aimed at raising awareness about the negative impact of waste on the environment and promoting sustainable practices.

The Towers Hall students worked tirelessly to create their sustainable outfits. They used materials such as plastic bags, old clothes, and other discarded items to create unique and fashionable clothing.

The event was a great success, and the outfits were stunning.

Shameka McKenzie, a member of the resident advisor team, explained to Our Today that the competition was inspired by an initiative led by the Hall to keep the environment clean. Alongside the other events that took place throughout the week, the fashion show was also geared towards encouraging a feeling of togetherness among the students in celebration of the Hall’s 10th anniversary.

“How can we make it sustainable and how can persons rewear their items and how can they mobilise the material that they have into new wear and even use garbage to make fashion. So that’s how we came up with the concept of Trashionista,“said Jevaughn Gordon, a member of the advisor team.

The hall consists of five different buildings that engaged in the competition – Apollo, Phoenix, Orion, Olympus and Dragons. Each building had their own designers who are the talented students behind the different pieces.

“Designing for school functions is a way of [getting] exposure for me. Already people walk and ask, ‘Are you the girl on T1 (Olympus) that sews?’ I’m absolutely grateful for it because, before I’d be at home making things for myself, maybe posting online, but it was nowhere near to the exposure on campus, as I was able to build a trust and strong confidence from my peers. With that, doors from all angles will open through networking and more loyal clients,” said Britania Freeman, one of the designers from Olympus. Britania has her very own clothing lines – BritropicsJa and Tribe on Instagram.

The categories included avant garde, swimwear, evening wear and casual.

The competition was judged by some of the best of the very best – Troy Oraine, Neiko Kelly (also known as Bootleg Rocstar) and Shampagnex. Each judge bore a notable dossier, having achieved countless triumphs – establishing themselves within the realm of fashion. Their prowess and self-assurance exuded a palpable aura of success that has served as an inspiration to other designers

Shampagnex has worked with five Grammy-nominated Jamaican artistes and designed the suit for the winner for The Best Reggae Artist of 2023. She is also the CEO of clothing brand Seora Clothing.

Troy Oraine, the man behind Tribe Nine Studios, has worked behind countless projects to ensure an exquisite aesthetic sense and a sophisticated style is exhibited. Having been gifted with a diverse range of talents, Troy has also worked as a choreographer and has danced in the X-Factor, for MTV and Beyonce Knowles-Carter.

Bootleg Rocstar has worked with many celebrities, publications and brands on a local and international scale as a creative director and fashion stylist. He has been featured in Vogue magazine, I-D magazine and Dazed magazine. He even did his own fashion week-themed birthday countdown – Rocstar Season – where he showcased his enthralling confidence that captured the attention and admiration of many.

“I was looking for recyclable materials and whether they actually used recyclable materials in their designs and effort and creativity,” said Shampagnex.

When asked how his own experience as a designer may have swayed his judgment, Troy responded, saying: “I think my influence was based on innovation and I think that’s kinda the trajectory of my career, just kinda introducing the world to something new and something fresh so I think that’s what I was leading with tonight.”

The students’ designs left the judges thoroughly impressed, their creativity and ingenuity shining through with each piece. From the bold and daring pieces unveiled for the Avant Garde section, to the exquisitley elegant outfits worn in the Formal section. Each creation was a testament to the students’ unique perspectives and artistic talents. The designers left feeling inspired and energised by the students’ raw talent and unbridled passion for their craft.

“I could grab one or a couple right now and have them do some work for me, I was very impressed,” said Bootleg Rocstar.

“The use of trash or garbage was really creative and I loved how the construction was as if these people were proper designers – no joke.”

The event not only highlighted the importance of sustainable fashion in reducing the negative impact of the fashion industry on the environment but also provided a platform for students to express their creativity. By showcasing how sustainable fashion can be stylish and affordable, the students have set an example for others to follow and have demonstrated that fashion can be both aesthetically pleasing and environmentally responsible.

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