Trashion: Fashion with ethics

Paper Dress

Photo Credits: Jolis Paon's "Paper Dress"

Trashion is exactly what it sounds like: fashion made from “trash.”

The creative process involves making clothing, accessories, and objects for the home from items that have been used or thrown-out, often treating the elements and creating a new material entirely. Bottle caps can become elements of a belt, newspapers can become textiles for a dress, or sheet metal can be reformed to become a piece of trashion jewelry.  The environmentalist philosophy is ground-breaking to the eco fashion movement because it generates garments that are valued from pieces that would otherwise be deemed as garbage, virtually avoiding the generation of additional carbon waste.

Originally, the term referred to the couture, costume-like trend of using unusual materials or industrial items on the runway in fashion shows. After green products became more popular, trashion became more wearable and available, with more companies doing their part to help.

The XSProject, which not only recycles, but also gives back to the community, buys trash from families in Jakarta that pick trash for a living. The foundation creates trashionable items such as tote bags and wallets, and then gives the proceeds back to the workers in the impoverished area in attempts to create better education programs and better living facilities. The non-profit institution was founded by American Artist Ann Wizer, after she began using plastic waste in her wearable art. Later, the Monsoon Vermont, a trashion design house started creating umbrellas, shower curtains and backpacks out of the materials bought from Jakarta.

In 2006, the Emmy nominated reality show, Project Runway, teamed up with Waste Management Recycle America (WMRA), to challenge their fashion designer contestants to design and assemble runway looks out of recyclable materials. The episode’s winner, Michael Knight, used a burlap peanut sack to construct a skirt, pairing it with a Mylar shrug over a paper bustier. Other designs included a newspaper gown, and a dress made entirely out of magazine covers. After the show, WMRA purchased the trashion from Project Runway and donated them to various green organizations across the country.

The beauty of trashion is that everyone can create their own recycled looks. There are sites such as, that publish DIY ideas to make your own fashion treasures from trash. Garments that are outdated, damaged, or oversized can be recreated with a few snips, stitches or additions. Aside from having a one-of-a-kind piece to wear, trashion is inexpensive and is just another way to do your part for a greener world.