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Students design fashions with recycled materials

Students in Professor Carol Mager’s Apparel Design Seminar course put their sewing skills to the test in February, when they designed apparel out of recycled industrial grade materials.

“Our seven seniors are to work as a team to develop five high fashion designs using recycled materials which have been supplied to us from a company called TerraCycle,” said Mager. “They recover damaged or substandard industrial materials which would normally be sent to a dump, and turn them into products like messenger bags or totes.”


When: 7:30 p.m.
May 14, 2011

Where: Rauenhorst Ballroom
St. Catherine University
St. Paul

Who: Open to the public

Admission: $10 in advance; $12 at the door

Mager said this is the second year that St. Kate’s has worked with TerraCycle, a company based in New Jersey, to get materials for this particular design project. The company collects industrial grade materials like potato chip bags and cereal boxes that were printed off skew or that failed to meet product requirements, and it recycles those materials to create its own unique product line.

“We also visit a local shop called ArtScraps, and they recycle materials that can be used for art as well,” said Mager.

Students in Mager’s class were charged with measuring, shearing and sewing these same materials into apparel that could not only be worn by models on a runway, but could also be featured as high fashion.

“It’s kind of like a Project Runway Challenge,” said Mager. “TerraCycle will showcase the winning design in their New Jersey shop window this spring after the Katwalk show.”

For students, the project was a larger undertaking than they had imagined.

“It’s definitely a lot hard than I thought it would be,” said Mary Ehlers, as she worked on her design in class on Thursday, Feb. 10.

Ehlers said she ran into problems with the fit of her dress, as well as the seams she had sewn. She was working diligently to fashion a garment out of discarded prints that would have been used as Sun Chips bags. Though the garment ended up being too small for the hips of the model, who would wear the final product.

“It’s not turning out the way I wanted, so I’m trying to fix the layering with the pieces,” said Ehlers, who had never created a garment out of recycled materials before. She turned to her professor for help on the project, finding solutions to the problems with the apparel construction.

Abby Hansen, another student enrolled in the course, was making progress during the work day on Thursday. She was busy at a sewing machine in the sewing lab in Fontbonne Hall, fashioning strips out of prints that would have been used for Doritos, if they hadn’t printed incorrectly.

“I’m trying to put color into the line without displaying too much of the logo,” said Hansen. “It’s a huge thing, because it’s really hard to break this stuff up because it’s so recognizable.”

All together, Hansen was working on six panels for a dress that would feature layers—designed to look a bit like pleats. Three panels would make up the front of the dress, with three panels making up the back of the garment.

Hansen said though the materials were some of the hardest the ladies had ever worked with, they would be using traditional methods to fasten the dresses.

“I’m thinking of just using big snaps for mine, because I feel like a zipper would be asking for trouble,” she said.

Jenn Bratvold, another student in Mager’s class, took a different approach to the project. She used fabric to create a skirt, then affixed the recycled materials onto the garment. Regardless of what method was used, however, the students were faced with a real challenge.

“We have a week and a half to do it basically,” said Hansen. She said students took the measurements for their models on Thursday, Feb. 3, and started the design process the following week. “It’s been a pretty rapid project,” she said.

On Tuesday, Feb. 15, the students presented their garments, as well as their fashion designs, to their professor. They were also judged by a panel of St. Catherine University faculty, which included Assistant Professor of Fashion Apparel Anupama Pasricha and Associate Professor of Fashion Apparel Trudy Landgren.

The models donned the dresses and other garments, and took a spin around the sewing lab in Fontbonne Hall.

Students will find out later this semester which garment is the winning design, after a selection is made at TerraCycle. Each of the five designs will be featured on the runway on Saturday, May 14, in Rauenhorst Hall, however, as the recycled fashions will comprise a segment of the Katwalk fashion show.

“I think it is really visually interesting and intriguing, and I think it works with St. Kate’s thrust toward sustainability,” said Mager.



Feb. 18, 2011 by Melissa Kaelin

See also: Arts, Liberal Arts, Students