Recycling gets high-style makeover

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Sunday, April 28, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

There was 13 million tons of textile waste in the United States in 2010, according to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency.

And only 15 percent was reused or recycled.

“Maybe if people know that, they might be shocked to hear that,” says Anya Weitzman, an eco-friendly designer. “And it also might encourage them to take a second look at something they might be throwing away, and they might re-use it.”

That's what Weitzman does. She creates clothing and accessories from recycled materials. The blogger and stylist of is one of the designers participating in the “Lost and Found: Sustainable High Fashion” exhibition at Sweetwater Center for the Arts in Sewickley.

The exhibit — kicking off May 4 — will showcase regional fashion designers as they discover the potential of reclaimed material. Becoming eco-friendly and living a sustainable lifestyle is the growing trend of the century, says Elysia Cecchetti, artistic director at Sweetwater. This exhibition features contemporary fashions created with repurposed and upcycled elements. Artists inject renewed life into recycled materials to defy traditional means of fashion, she says.

Sweetwater will host an informal modeling session during the opening reception. Informal modeling is a type of fashion display where the designer or model personally showcases the artwork the night of the exhibition. The artist and/or model will have the option to be a still model and pose on a pedestal (freeze modeling) or mingle with guests while showcasing the designs and answering any questions.

Of 20 submissions, 13 were chosen for the exhibition, juried by LaMont Jones.

“We received an interesting mix of items,” Cecchetti says. “It will be a well-rounded exhibition.”

She hopes to grow the event to where she could publicize it to attract both local and national artists.

“It will give a different perspective on a fashion show,” Cecchetti says. “And since we are an art studio, we like the vision and performance aspect of this event.”

Designer Lana Neumeyer of O'Hara says it should be a spectacular evening. She will be showing items created from her burlap couture collection.

“People think that burlap is not a material that's wearable, but it is,” say Neumeyer. “There are lots of sustainable fibers like burlap that are fun to wear. It is something different.”

One of her pieces is a dress made out of a burlap coffee-bean bag from her native Brazil.

“I love that this is not a traditional fashion show,” Neumeyer says. “I love this type of show where you can be up close with the models and can touch the clothing.”

Recycled fashion is incredibly important, says Weitzman, a Nashville native, who lives in Garfield. Having the show in an art gallery is a perfect match.

“Fashion is very much art,” Weitzman says. “Fashion has an important cultural history, just like art has an important cultural history. Fashion and art can tell us a lot about ourselves.”

Weitzman views fashion as accessible public art because you wear it. There is fashion everywhere from couture to sportswear.

“Steelers jerseys are fashion,” Weitzman says. “Fashion doesn't have to be high-fashion. What you wear is your fashion.”

Her collection includes four blouses created from scarves and remnant fabrics and jewelry created from scraps of bronze and repurposed leather.

Weitzman enjoys creating items that look streamlined and that don't appear to be made from recycled materials.

“Recycled fashion can be wearable, and it doesn't have to look trashy,” says Weitzman. “My hope is to get out that message. And that when people see my work, they will think it is cool. And that they might think they can do this with some of their old clothes or other items that are lying around. I am so excited to be part of this event and to meet people and talk about fashion.”

As is Kari Zuzack of Slippery Rock. She designed a one-shoulder top made from a coffee-bean bag and nails and a skirt created from a curtain. Her necklace is made of a deconstructed lighting fixture and a tea-light holder. The belt is also part of a lighting fixture.

“I am inspired by the contrast of light versus dark,” says Zuzack, who credits her parents with encouraging her and her siblings to be creative from a young age. “My original plan was to have actual working lights, but it morphed into something else.”

She says people are quick to throw things away and just buy new but there are plenty of items you can reuse.

“If anything, take time to think about it before you toss it,” says Zuzack, who because interested in the fun aspect of eco-friendly designs from making her own Halloween costumes. “This show will be good because the artists and designers will be able to interact with each other and with the guests. People can see what we do and get a closer look at the fashion. And we might inspire others to be resourceful like we are when it comes to creating such fashion.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7889.

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