December 2, 2021

Worn clothes reborn

Fashion event shows off recycled outfits, textiles

Photos by Shenendoah Briere/contributing photographer

Audience members take photos, clap and watch as Pam Jenkins walks down the runway at the ReFashion Cortland show. Designers showcased outfits and accessories they made by repurposing item they already owned.

Two old orange sweatshirts made the Fred Flintstone costume Adolis Burgos was modeling.

He walked the stage shortly after Regina Ferro showed off her Scarlett O’Hara-inspired dress, which was three dresses molded into one.

The concept of reusing textiles to make new outfits, known as upcycling, isn’t new to Ferro, who showed off several of her designs Saturday at the ReFashion Cortland show at the Cortland Corset Building.

The ReFashion Cortland show, which more than 25 people attended, was a collaboration between the Cultural Council of Cortland County, the SUNY Cortland Fashion Club and MagPie Creations owner Stacey Goldyn-Moller to challenge people to reuse many of the textiles they own.

“The goal and the aim is to keep as much clothing and fiber out of the landfills as possible,” Goldyn-Moller said.

To help upcycle

Places recycled textiles go and where you can drop off items:
• St. Pauly Textile — 175 Port Watson St., Cortland; 2405 Church Lane and 29 Cortland St., Marathon; 3670 Route 13, Truxton; 307 Main St. Groton; 711 Railroad Trail, DeRuyter
Salvation Army — 138 Main St., Cortland; 3975 West Road, Cortlandville
All County Used Clothes — 1 South Ave., Cortland; 879 McLean Road, Cortlandville; 84 North St. and 65 N. Front St., Dryden
Rescue Mission — 3662 Route 281 and 3654 Route 281, Cortlandville

Residents and businesses in the state throw away 700,000 tons of usable and recyclable textiles every year, which amounts to a potential market value of $210 million, reports the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

In 2015, 10.5 million tons of municipal solid waste textiles ended up in landfills — 7.6 percent of all municipal solid waste, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agency also noted that most of the textiles that make up municipal solid waste are discarded clothing.

For more than 30 years, Ferro has taken inspiration from movies and theater shows to create costumes from old prom dresses, bathrobes and other items she buys at thrift stores, gets from friends or finds lying around her house. She also volunteers as a costume assistant.

A model wears a design by SUNY Cortland student Matthew Okerayi’s designs during the ReFashion Cortland show Saturday at the Cortland Corset building.

Ferro and Brynn Hyde were both recognized by the three judges at the show for their upcycled pieces.

“It was unexpected,” Ferro said. “I just came to have fun because I do this for fun.”

Ferro said she thought fellow designer Matthew Okerayi, who attends SUNY Cortland and is the creator of his own fashion line titled Designsbyok, had really good clothing designs.

“He’s amazing,” she said. “I just asked him to do a collection with my age in mind.”

Okerayi’s designs are inspired by the fashion label Alyx and upcycles tactical — or military style — wear using chains, buckles and straps.

Okerayi said the fashion industry contributes to a lot of pollution. “That motivated me to make and push a line like this,” he said, adding he is now working on another upcycled clothing line.

“What I have seen has been so innovative and there’s such a range of fashion,” Goldyn- Moller said.

She said the best part about upcycling is almost every textile can be used in some way, noting she uses stained clothes as rags.

About 95% of all used clothing, footwear and other cloth household products can be recycled, so long as they are dry and oil and grease free, according to the state DEC website. Of the textiles that are recycled, 45% are reused as clothing, 20% are recycled into fibers, 30% are reused as wiping cloths.

“Don’t be afraid to break boundaries,” Okerayi said. “It’s OK to be unconventional.”