Sarah Bach participates in eco fashion show 2010.05.19

Written by David Green. Posted in Feature Stories

By DAVID GREEN

After about 40 hours with a heat gun, Sarah Bach had a dress ready for the runway at sarah_bach.fashion.jpgNashville’s “Southern Shores” fashion event. 

Why all the heat? The gown is made from plastic bags.

Bach, a former Morenci student and recent graduate from Michigan State University’s Apparel and Textile Design program, was one of 15 MSU students invited to take part in an eco-fashion show organized by actress Suzy Amis, wife of film director James Cameron.

MSU’s involvement in the program resulted from the Red Carpet Green Dress sustainable clothing competition. MSU student Jillian Granz won the contest and Amis wore her dress to the Academy Awards.

At the invitation of the Camerons, MSU’s design department was invited to take part in “Special Topics: Innovative Approaches to Apparel Design”—the only event in the Southern Shores show that featured non-professional designers.

“Our student designs were modeled in a small fashion show before a show by larger eco-friendly design companies,” Bach said. “We were like the opening act.”

The dresses were later sold at auction to benefit Muse Elementary School in California, a school that Amis founded with her sister, Rebecca Amis.

The Southern Shores show is organized by Jeff Garner, chief designer for Prophetic Clothing in Franklin, Tenn.

The Red Carpet Green Dress competition became a class assignment in Theresa Winge’s design class at MSU.

“We all had to think of a sustainable design and submit fashion sketches to the competition,” Bach said.

Her plastic dress varied from her first idea.

“My initial sketches that I submitted for the competition illustrated a blue peace silk dress that I would hand dye with indigo,” she said.

When it came time to create the dress, her professor told the class they didn’t have to stay with the original drawings.

“I chose to work with plastic bags,” Bach said.

She created a dress, but when the Nashville event was announced, students were instructed to create large, more elaborate designs. She started in again and came up with the gown that was shown at Southern Shores.

“The dress is soft inside,” she said. “It laces up in the back, so it can fit lots of different body types.”

It does get a little moist inside after it’s worn for a while and it does make a sound.

“It has a rustling noise that it makes as you walk,” Bach said, “like when you are bringing in several bags of groceries at once.”

She pressed plastic to fuse pieces together, then used a heat gun to allow the plastic to shrivel and take interesting shapes.

“The dress was really an evolution of the design process,” Bach added.

Her classmate Lauren Paulauskas, who also created a plastic gown, put it this way: “By repurposing plastic items or melting them down to create new plastic items, plastic is given a second life. My dress has rescued plastic from its potential life in the landfill and given it a life on the catwalk.”

Winge was delighted with the event and looks for additional opportunities for her students to work on sustainable designs.

Now that Bach has her bachelor’s degree, she’s off to Florence, Italy, for a course in natural dyes at an alpaca farm.

She’s waiting to hear from the Fashion Institute of Design in Los Angeles to find out if she’s accepted into the textile surface design program.

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