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Whitehorse studio displays clothes made from bags, masks and other waste

Jul 13, 2023

Stacy Lewis models ‘Duchess Doily’ at the trashion show at Shipyards Park on July 29. The outfit was made by Leslie Leong using a stained tablecloth, doilies, feathers and iridescent film from a DVD, among other materials. (Leslie Leong/Submitted)

The creative outfits were made as part of a local art society’s Changing Trash to Treasure initiative

A collection of creative ensembles that would likely catch the attention of children’s writer Robert Munsch’s famed Paper Bag Princess is currently on display at Northern Front Studio.

The garments are all made from waste materials and were crafted as part of Yukon Artists @ Work’s (YAAW) now-concluded Changing Trash to Treasure initiative, which aimed to increase public awareness about our relationship with trash and to promote reusing items.

YAAW is a non-profit society that displays many Yukon artists’ work at its Whitehorse gallery.

Twelve artists created more than 20 outfits as part of the initiative. The clothing items are made from an eclectic assortment of waste materials, ranging from plastic bags, containers and food packaging to COVID-19 tests, surgical masks and even a mattress cover.

A stunning garment made from repurposed mesh plastic bags, as seen on Aug. 3 at Northern Front Studio in Whitehorse. (Matthew Bossons/Yukon News)

Nearly all the garments were assembled by artists based in the Yukon or northern British Columbia. However, one colourful dress made of empty chip bags was made by an artist based in the nation of Myanmar in Southeast Asia.

“Two friends were coming up from Kelowna, B.C., and they had, last summer, done a […] ‘trashion show,’ and in that show, they featured two pieces that were made by a group in Myanmar. And so, when they came up to Whitehorse, they brought one of the dresses that was in the fashion show,” Janet Patterson, a member artist at YAAW’s gallery and member-at-large for the society’s board, told the News.

Janet Patterson, a member artist at Yukon Artists @ Work, adjusts one of her outfits on Aug. 3. The ensemble, made from reclaimed materials, is currently on display at Northern Front Studio in Whitehorse. (Matthew Bossons/Yukon News)

The apparel collection was unveiled to the public last weekend when YAAW held its own trashion show, a runway-style fashion showcase, at Shipyards Park.

The event was held on July 29 and saw both seniors and youth model the trash-comprised garments for a crowd of more than 50 spectators. A duo performed live music for each of the outfits.

“I think people were blown away by how intricate and beautiful the outfits were. We had so much feedback; somebody was telling me that they were flying up from the South, and people were talking about [the trashion show] on the airplane,” Patterson said.

Models dressed in garments made from waste materials at the trashion show at Shipyards Park on July 29. (Hanna Miller/Submitted)

With the trashion show now firmly in the rear-view mirror, the outfits will be on display at Northern Front Studio until the end of August, and YAAW will host an opening reception on Aug. 4 from 5 to 7 p.m.

YAAW’s waste-to-clothing challenge and concluding trashion show were just one part of the Changing Trash to Treasure initiative. Another program saw older folks partner with YAAW artists to produce two eight-by-four-foot panels made from colourful pieces of reclaimed plastics.

Whitehorse’s Raven Recycling, which donated much of the plastic material used in the project, will receive one of the panels as a thank you for their support. According to Patterson, the panel will be delivered to the recycling facility on Aug. 4.

The other panel will eventually be displayed at the YAAW gallery, although the specific date for its unveiling has yet to be set. Be sure to keep an eye on YAAW’s social media pages for updates.

Speaking about what she hopes people have taken away from YAAW’s latest campaign, Patterson told the News, “You know, when you look at materials and objects not as trash but as materials, things that can be used, there’s nothing that you can’t create with these discarded materials.”

READ MORE: Amid slowing art sales, Yukon art co-operative fundraises with workshops

Contact Matthew Bossons at [email protected]

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READ MORE: Amid slowing art sales, Yukon art co-operative fundraises with workshops