At Paterson Museum 'trashion' show, ‘Eco-Chic’ dresses made from recycled refuse on display
The Paterson Museum prepares for the Eco-Chic 2 exhibit. NorthJersey.com
'Eco-Chic' exhibit at Paterson Museum shows off garments fashioned from recycled household garbage
PATERSON — Rose Orelup collected 1,000 white plastic grocery bags and sewed them together to produce a winter dress.
Her other recycling-based fashion creations included garments made from drinking straws, window blinds, surgical floor mats, plastic bottles and used coffee filters.
Five of these works will be featured in an upcoming “Eco-Chic” exhibit at the Paterson Museum.
“When people come, they expect to see trash,” Orelup said. “What they end up seeing is actual clothing that used to be trash. That’s the zing.”
“All of these are meant to be worn,” Orelup added as she unpacked her creations on Thursday morning and set them up on mannequins.
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The museum’s first eco-chic exhibit was such a hit last year that staff decided to try another one. Curator Cristina Deutsch was looking for a new twist for this year’s show and took her inspiration from headlines about the debate over a possible ban on plastic shopping bags in New Jersey.
“It’s a hot topic,” Deutsch said.
All in the name of 'trashion'
All of the dresses in the exhibit are made from various types of recycled plastic, including the one that uses grocery bags, Orelup said.
As part of the project, Deutsch teamed up with Ramapo College, which deployed students to conduct surveys about plastic bag use among stores and consumers in the Paterson area. The results will be featured prominently on posters that will accompany the eco-chic exhibit, which has its grand opening on Sept. 16.
Orelup, 23, of Torrington, Connecticut, said that since she started designing clothes made from recycled materials she has produced more than 50 such garments, including creations displayed at shows in New England, New York, California and Texas.
Orelup said her interest in fashion drew her to designing and her proclivity for the “non-traditional” brought her to “trashion,” a word that was created in the 21st century by combining trash and fashion. The Paterson Museum project is funded through a $4,500 grant from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, part of which is being used to pay Orelop.
Deutsch learned of Orelup’s work in a “trashion” show in New York City and invited her to be the featured designer in the Paterson exhibit.
“Her work is incredible,” Deutsch gushed.
A recent graduate of the University of Connecticut with a degree in business, Orelup works during the day as a marketing consultant. She does her trashion designing on nights and weekends.
Orelup gets her materials from a variety of sources. Sometimes she scavenges her neighborhood for discarded bits and pieces. She also sets aside items she has used. For example, among the 1,000 drinking straws used on one of the dresses in Orelup’s Paterson show are a few that she sipped on herself.
The task of collecting 1,000 white plastic bags presented a challenge. So she issued a plea on the Internet. Soon packages of used plastic bags began arriving at her home from all over the globe.
“Europe, Hawaii, California, Indiana, Minnesota, New Jersey,” she said, rattling off the return addresses on some of the packages.
Orelup discarded sections of the bags that had print on them and primarily used the white portions of the plastic, which had to be cut, arranged and sewn. She estimates she spent about 200 hours on that one dress. It took another 170 hours to finish a dress that uses red drinking straws spray-painted bronze and red as ornamental fringes.
Orelup cut and sewed eight medical floor mats she picked up from a hospital in New Haven — there was no blood on them, she said — and about 50 plastic bottles for a blue dress perfect for spring wear. She cut the bottles into little pieces and melted them to create different shapes before embroidering them on the garment to give it a shiny decorative touch.
Orelup tries on her own dresses, she said, as she crafts them in her studio. She's even worn a few of her trashion works at public events, such as exhibit openings, she added. The one made from the plastic bags is particularly heavy, and Orelup said it could probably serve as a warm winter wardrobe option.
During her eight-year career in trashion, Orelup said, she has had to remake the dress constructed of used coffee filters four times. That’s because they decompose, she said.