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At Trashion Fashion Show, new ideas transform old materials

  • Jeanine Briggs is making her latest dress out of an old Chinese film she found as scrap. The dress is her latest creation for the annual Trashion Fashion show in Sonoma.

It appears to be every inch — or frame — haute couture. The designer dress to which Jeanine Briggs is applying the finishing touches in her Kenwood studio is a sleek, shiny black number that gently falls over the curves of her mannequin. The hem falls in shimmery strips to the ankles.

Film strips, that is.

This fashionable number could have generated quite the buzz if it had been worn by an edgy star on the Oscars' red carpet. Briggs constructed it completely out of film. And not just any film.

Trashion Fashion Show

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A scrap artist, Briggs re-edited the 2006 Chinese action film "Dragon Tiger Gate," something she found scrounging about for discarded objects, into a celluloid gown.

And while the original movie never earned an Oscar nod, it will have a second chance at winning an award, this time as repurposed couture at the upcoming fourth annual Trashion Fashion Show in Sonoma.

"It's what I call the transformative power of art, because the materials inform me, the process informs me and it kind of transforms my thinking," Briggs says of her motivation to take trash and turn it into art. She has been honored with artist residencies at the vastly different venues of the DeYoung Museum and the San Francisco Dump.

Her work typically takes the form of sculpture or wall art. But Briggs also loves a challenge.

So even though she is not a dress designer or seamstress, she has taken on the task, along with about four dozen other designers ranging from Girl Scouts to adult amateurs to professional artists, to upcycle trash into high "trashion."

Over the past four years, the Sonoma Community Center has sponsored an eco-fashion show that has developed into one of the hotter tickets in town. Seats are in such demand that organizers this year decided to move the March 22 event from the 150-seat Community Center, which benefits from the proceeds, to the larger Veterans Memorial Building with seating for about 400.

The idea of turning trash into clothing isn't new. What child of the Depression could forget the feedsack dress? But in recent years, born out of a concept that began in New Zealand, it's gone upscale and avant-garde, maturing into an international movement that provides a place for art, fashion and eco-consciousness to collide in strange and surprising ways.


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