CIFEC students stage 'Trashion' show

Students at the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre are making recycling fashionable – literally – by creating dresses from recycled materials. 

The CIFEC students staged their “Trashion Show” last Wednesday, which showcased the gowns. The pieces were designed and made by Aaliyah McLaughlin and Shanna Batten.  

“We agreed that sourcing recycled and re-purposed material would be a fun challenge for a fashion collection,” said their teacher, Sarah McDougall. “We have learned plenty of new skills and looked at the history of silhouettes of fashion and the importance of learning how to do it yourself.” 

The recyclable materials were donated by A. L. Thompson, Pinnacle Media Ltd., and the University College of the Cayman Islands. 

Ms. McLaughlin made an evening gown that featured a fitted V-neck bodice and straight column skirt from “Danger Do Not Enter” red plastic tape, which she plans to wear to her prom in June. 

Ms. Batten designed a Cinderella-inspired dress with a fitted corset top made from a plastic shopping bag printed with “100% Degradable, We Have Gone Green.” The gown’s skirt was made from newspaper, while the violet and primrose roses appliquéd at the waist and on one shoulder were made from magazines. 

Fellow student Kimberly McPherson modeled another dress, designed by Ms. McLaughlin and Ms. Batten and made by Ms. McDougall, that featured a fitted bodice and full skirt, with tiny frill details, made from A. L. Thompson bright scarlet plastic. 

The design project forms part of the students’ Level 2 BTECH (equivalent to GCSE) extended certificate in fashion, which is taught in 60-minute sessions each week.  

For the project, Ms. McDougall drew on her experience as a costume designer in the U.K. to inspire the students. She has worked with the Royal Ballet in Covent Garden, at the studio of Ritva Westenius – bridal designer of the year 2012 – and with costume designer James Acheson on “Restoration,” the 1995 film which won the Oscar for Costume Design, starring Robert Downey Jr., Meg Ryan, and Sir Ian McKellen, and 1998’s “The Man in the Iron Mask,” starring Leonardo diCaprio, Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich. 

Normally the students are motivated by modern fashion, but for this project, Ms. McDougall suggested researching historical fashion.  

“It empowers them to make something themselves,” she said. “The students studied online to find inspiration and found the importance of learning to make clothing as a life skill.” 

She added, “They are one-off unique dresses which will be displayed on stands afterwards.” 

Cindy Rosan-Jones, organizer of Cayman Islands Fashion Week, donated three tickets to the girls to attend “Fashion Rocks” fashion show on Saturday.  

“They are really excited about Fashion Week and attending the ‘Fashion Rocks’ event,” said McDougall. “It has created a new interest for them.” 

Isy Obi, one of the designers to be featured at “Fashion Rocks,” attended the “Trashion Show”. 

“Fashion made from recycled material is a topical subject globally at the moment, with a strong focus on the issues surrounding sustainability in the fashion industry,” she said. “I am beyond impressed with the students’ creativity and attention to detail in the design of these dresses using such unexpected materials. From the faux-boning constructed from paper to floral embellishments made out of old magazines, everything about the dresses showcased the designers’ thoughtfulness and hard work.” 

CIFEC students Kimberly McPherson, Shanna Batten and Aaliyah McLaughlin model dresses made from recycled materials. – Photo: Jenny Palmer