Fashion from recycled materials

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The heavy Sunday downpour offered the flowers some desperately needed water on Earth Day as a crowd of people came out to celebrate the special day in a unique way by attending the Queens Center Mall’s “Recycle the Runway” fashion show. They had asked me to be the Mistress of Ceremonies, and did I have fun!

For the last three years the mall has hosted this unique tribute to Earth Day. With the help of JCPenney, Sephora (inside JCPenney), H&M, Papaya and the Children’s Place, Dawn Simon, marketing director of the mall, and her administrative assistant Terry Shalewitz, organized the retailers to have their fashions shown while three contestants created designs from recycled materials.

The designers had to compete with each other to create a dress made from recycled and sustainable materials. The designs had to be completed in one hour and be judged based on originality, creativity, wearability and use of the recycled materials they chose.

While they worked on their designs the participating stores had their models showcase their fashions for the spring and summer. Although all the models were well put together, the beautiful kids wearing the fashions from the Children’s Place, from a little 10 month old to an eight year old, stole the show! Their clothes were well coordinated and each of the little darlings was emboldened to pose like professionals by the paparazzi (parents, relatives and photographers) taking their photos. I don’t know who had more fun — me watching them or the little darlings enjoying the whole experience.

While Tess Lee-Thomas, a student at the Urban Assembly Institute of Math &Science for Young Women; Elizabeth Peralta, from Woodside, who goes to the High School of Fashion Industries; and Mark Salinas, a Sunnyside costume designer, worked on their creations, I introduced the models from the stores. A bonus was the Sephora makeup artists giving advice as they did a makeover of one of the women in the audience.

I was amazed at the creativity of the designers who used pieces of broken CDs, plastic water bottles, fabric from “found” umbrellas, plastic wrapping paper and cotton to create their fashions. While they worked three judges watched in wonder as the “ creations” were being formed.

The judges were Tarik Coles, last year’s winner; Anastashia Diaz, a community activist on City Councilmember Julissa Ferreras’ staff; and Maya Ali, a graduate of Pratt Institute who has devoted her life to design with an eye to create works that are beneficial to all.

To me all three designers were winners, but prizes were given. First place, a $500 American Express green gift card, went to Mark Salinas; a $200 gift card was won by Tessa Lee-Thomas; and third place winner Elizabeth Peralta won $100. They were all winners because they gave us a unique experience at the bustling Queens Center Mall. It certainly brightened my day!

And since, for me, beautiful fashion enhances our world, what an appropriate way to celebrate Earth Day and pay tribute to our environment.