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Sustainability Strut brings second-hand garments to galleries

Photo courtesy of Olivia Chester.

For a few hours on Friday evening, the galleries of Ackland Art Museum will turn into a runway.

The second annual Sustainable Strut, organized by the UNC Undergraduate Student Government’s Department of Environmental Affairs, will showcase the secondhand-sourced designs of nine on-campus and local stylists, fashion collectives and creative directors. 

UNC senior and co-director of the DEA, Tyra Rubin, said the event aims to spread awareness about textile waste in the garment industry in an inventive, fun way. She said that the event is an extension of the department’s mission to promote student groups involved in environmental advocacy. 

“Sustainable fashion and slow fashion definitely fits into what we, as a student organization do — that's what our job is,” Rubin said.

Slow fashion is an approach to design and curation that prioritizes environmentally-friendly, ethically-made pieces over fast fashion trends.

UNC junior Aliyah Carrion, the Strut’s lead creative designer and a member of the DEA, said that the project stemmed from a desire to combine her interests in sustainable fashion and environmental conservation.

Carrion began developing the project at a time when she was grieving the death of a family member and using thrifting as part of her healing journey.

"This whole thing is about making something beautiful out of conventionally non-beautiful things — like grief, like secondhand clothing,” she said

Each designer will display an original collection that incorporates their personal style into the overall theme of sustainability on the runway, DEA general staff member and senior Christian Chung said.

Chung also models for Xpressions, a fashion collective for students of color that is a creative partner for the event.

We have a Black-owned stylist who picked out all of our pieces and curated all of our looks to what she thought would fit our personalities and vibe,” he said. 

One of the local designers, freelance stylist Helena Dauverd, said their collection spotlights how timeless capsule pieces can withstand the increasing acceleration of the trend cycle in the digital age.

“Maybe we should just stick with what we know,” they said. “And what I know is really these characteristic styles from these eras that I’m so used to.” 

Each designer curated their collection based on their models' styles and body types. Dauverd will style five models, who will each wear an outfit associated with a different decade, spanning from the 1960s to the early 2000s.

Some of the featured fashion history moments include 1980s power dressing, the velvet burnout dress and drum-and-bass-inspired street fashion. 

Women’s empowerment nonprofit Dress for Success provided eighty-four secondhand pieces for the designers to work with, including jewelry, scarves and purses that would have otherwise been recycled.

The Hussman School of Journalism and Media's FashionMash program provided studio space for designers. 

After several years of inactivity, the DEA was re-instated as a branch in the fall of 2022, and the Strut was put on when Ella Feathers, the current co-director, worked with Carrion to organize the event.

Fiona Hasanaj, a junior and model in the Strut, said that she is particularly excited about this year’s venue, which will spotlight student designs against well-known artworks.

Hasanaj said she decided to model for the show not just because she enjoys being in front of the camera, but because she is invested in sustainable fashion as a lifestyle choice rather than a fleeting trend.

“I feel that so many lead companies and designers are not ethically sourcing their materials and items to make these pieces that everyone loves,” she said. “Micro-trends fall in and out, and so many of the pieces in the Sustainable Strut are so timeless and can be worn time and time again.”

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