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Old materials, fresh ideas at Carbondale fashion show

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jane BachrachThe second annual Green Is the New Black, a fashion show to benefit the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities, is at the Carbondale Recreation Center on Saturday, March 20.
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CARBONDALE – High fashion is a game of being au courant, bringing something new to wearers and watchers. So why does Rhonda Roberts, a Carbondale designer, exude genuine pride when claiming that her pieces are “nothing new?”

Roberts is reasonably up-to-date in her own look on a recent weekday morning – magenta-tinted hair stylishly done, lots of black down to her cool black boots. So the “nothing new” statement is not a celebration of the retro-hippy aesthetic that is no stranger to Carbondale fashion.

In fact, Roberts’ creations are near the cutting edge. Several of her own pieces add to her cool look this morning – a distinctive silvery belt buckle, a thick black bracelet. The designs are new; what isn’t are the materials. The belt buckle and the bracelet, like everything Roberts makes, has been made from old bicycle parts. The buckle was once a bicycle sprocket; the bracelet is made of old tires. This is the source of her pride: the materials were headed for a landfill before Roberts intervened and turned them into wearable art. Roberts – whose line is called Stomp Designz by R2, after the Carbondale bike-riding group the Stomperillaz – likes to call her work “rebicycled.”

Roberts is among the clothing designers featured in Green Is the New Black, a fashion show to benefit the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities. The event, set for Saturday, March 20 at the Carbondale Recreation Center, is a celebration of a new kind of cutting-edge – where fashions are made with one eye kept on the environmental impact of the product. This year’s second annual event is organized under the subheading, The Rites of Spring.

Not all the designers featured in the show salvage their materials from the dumpster – “upcycling,” as Roberts calls it – but they are all eco-conscious. Glenwood Springs-based EnviroTextiles is prominent in the movement to make fabrics out of hemp, which is more environmentally friendly to grow and process than cotton. Some earn their eco-conscious credibility by staying local: Autumn Teneyl, whose booth is an annual hit at the Carbondale Mountain Fair, makes her artistic clothing in Pagosa Springs. Several of the designers are both local and practice upcycling: The Trashed line, from Paonia, is featuring a dress made of aluminum pop-tops. (“Unbelievable craftsmanship. And beautiful It would make any woman want to wear pop-tops,” marveled Roberts.) And Ananda Banc, a Carbondale resident, uses discarded clothing to make new items.

The organizers of Green Is the New Black – including Amy Kimberly, the events director for CCAH, and Lynn Aliya, who is handling the theatrical end of the fashion show – note that using recycled goods is not only good for the environment, but also a way to cut down on expenses. The bulk of Roberts’ materials are donated by local bike shops. But the event itself doesn’t skimp.

“The show is like being in New York,” Kimberly said. “It’s top of the line lighting – $20,000 worth of lights – the big runway, a set designed by a designer from Denver.”

Green Is the New Black opens with a 7 p.m. dessert reception and is followed by the fashion show that features 52 designers and 60 models. It takes place at the Carbondale Recreation Center. Behind the show is Aliya, who has done extensive work in the valley as a theater director. The fashion show has given her a unique way to use the stage.

“New energy, new force – that’s what the show’s about. It’s a theatrical experience; it’s entertainment,” Aliya said. “Working on this show is the most inspired I’ve been since I had kids. It really took me to a new way of looking at everything. “

That seems to be the spirit of Green Is the New Black. Roberts says that working with previously used materials sparks a fresh way of looking at design.

“Traditional fashion, you have a blank canvas – you draw up a design, choose your materials and go with it,” she said. “With recycled fashion you have to take something that’s had a life of its own and create a vision for what it can become.”

Kimberly added that recycled fashions tend to inspire viewers in a way that traditional design does not.

“People leave feeling inspired and joyful,” she said. “They want to create. They want to take something old and make it new again.”

stewart@aspentimes.com


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