Stillwater students show off 'Trashion'

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 21, 2011 - 2:05 PM

Their efforts to turn trash into fashion will be displayed in a downtown Stillwater boutique.


Liesl Benson, owner of Stella Boutique in downtown Stillwater, moved around the dresses made by Stillwater high school student that were constructed out of trash.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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How do you turn coffee filters, a deck of cards, VHS tape and some old magazines into high-end fashion?

That was the challenge set out for students in Stillwater Area High School's Fashion and Design class.

The students' work -- among them a ruffled skirt made of coffee filters, a midriff paired with a skirt made out of cards and a dress woven out of VHS tape -- will be displayed this week and next at Stella Boutique in downtown Stillwater.

The fashion and design class was offered for the first time this year as an elective for students who were considering getting into the fashion world.

Last Tuesday, the boutique held a reception to display the students' work. Refreshments were served as the public made their way through the boutique, which sells women's clothing.

Teacher Josette Koets, who also teaches interior design, food and other career classes, volunteered to teach the class because of her childhood dream of getting into fashion.

Many of the students in the class said they were considering a career in fashion themselves.

As part of the class, students learn about the fashion industry, retail, how to merchandise clothes and ways to break into the industry.

Students also made presentations on the environmental impact fashion has and the impact the industry has on workers in developing countries.

"I wanted them to be conscientious consumers and designers," Koets said.

The idea to create fashion out of trash came from Stella co-owner Liesl Benson.

Benson had just come back from a fashion exhibit in St. Paul where college students displayed some of their work using recycled materials. "I thought, 'This would be so fun to have in Stillwater.'"

It was an instant hit with the students.

As part of the project, Benson and her co-workers came to the class to teach about starting up and operating a clothing store.

Koets assigned the students to bring random items from home and dump them on a table in the middle of the classroom. They worked in groups to produce five wearable outfits.

The students spent the next month taping, gluing and cutting the materials. One group used cut-out magazine clips to create a papier-mâché top to a skirt. Another used ribbons of VHS tape to create a dress.

"I thought it was cool to transform clothes into high fashion," said Heley Carlson, a 16-year-old 10th-grader. "We really had to be creative."

Are any of them willing to wear their dresses?

"I would," said Hannah Grafenstein, a 16-year-old junior. She made her dress out of two black garbage bags. She placed old headbands around the waste and sewed lace across its front.

"I think it has a real classic and realistic look," she said. "Anything that's thrown out can be turned into beauty."

Their work will be displayed at Stella Boutique through Friday. The store is open from noon-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

Daarel Burnette II • 651-735-1695 Twitter: @DaarelStrib

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