Turning trash into fashion

-A A +A
By Jennifer Garcia

Art comes in many forms and can be made out of anything an artist can think of. Now, Oregon native and New Mexico resident Nancy Judd is opening the eyes of fashionistas in and out of the state and letting them know the same can be said of fashion.
Since 1998, Judd has been crafting fashions out of other people’s trash. She first got the idea while working in Santa Fe, as the city’s recycling coordinator.
“I realized that art and fashion could be used to raise the consciousness of the public about recycling in a fun and positive way,” Judd said. “I started an event called the Recycle Santa Fe Art Market, that is still going strong.
The opening night always features a recycled fashion contest and I would make a dress every year to promote the contest.
Soon, I had a wonderful collection of recycled garments and I started to get invited by other recycling coordinators around the country to give recycled fashion shows in their communities.”
She stopped doing fashion shows four years ago, because she said she realized she could “reach more people with my message of sustainability with exhibitions. I also wanted an audience that was not already environmentally minded.”
As a result, Judd took her message to various airports, museum and shopping malls — both in and out of the state. In 2008, she did an exhibit at the Albuquerque Sunport; in 2009, she did one at the Pittsburgh International Airport; in 2010, she went to the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and installed an exhibit there; in 2011 and 2012, she was off to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; and most recently, she did an exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of Art.
Now, as part of the Next Big Idea Festival, Judd will come to Los Alamos and teach residents not only how to create couture fashion from trash, but those efforts will result in The Next Big Idea’s Trash Fashion Contest.
She will host two free recycled fashion workshops in Los Alamos. These workshops will help participants in the Trash Fashion Contest design and prepare garments for Los Alamos’ first Trash Fashion Contest.
“The first workshop, which is geared to people new to sewing and design, will be held from 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Aug. 25. A second advanced workshop will be held from 1-5:30 p.m. Aug. 26.
Both workshops are open to all ages and will be in Los Alamos, with the exact location to be determined,” according to a press release.
“Judd will begin each workshop with a slide presentation of her recycled fashions. She will discuss techniques for working with difficult materials such as aluminum cans, plastic, rusty nails, and other recycle materials.
The remaining time will be spent designing and preparing garments for the Trash Fashion Contest, which will be at noon Sept. 15 on the Fuller Lodge lawn, as part of The Next Big Idea Festival.”
“The workshops and trash fashion contest are great opportunities to raise awareness about reducing, reusing and recycling in a fun and innovative way,” said Tom Nagawiecki, Los Alamos County Environmental Services specialist.
“It is a perfect fit to host the Trash Fashion Contest as part of the Next Big Idea Festival. Thanks to a grant received by New Mexico Clean and Beautiful, the county is able to host workshops by a world-renowned fashion artist and environmental educator.”
Nagawiecki said the workshops give people of all ages the opportunity to repurpose items that many people would consider trash.  
“Bringing these items to life through fashion creates a wonderful eye-catching lesson about taking a closer look at what we throw out on a daily basis,” he said.  
Judd said that everything she does is focused on environmental education.
Not only does she create various exhibits, but she also gives speeches and workshops, encouraging people to “change at least one thing in their lives to benefit the environment.”
She said she believes every community has its own special culture, which always influences the fashion shows. Like most artists, Judd has created at least one piece that stands out for her.
“Crime Scene is one of the most interesting pieces I have made. It is made from police tape and reads, ‘Crime Scene Do No Enter’ and ‘Caution.’
“At first, I thought it would be an edgy and fun garment, but soon I realized that this piece is very serious. For me, it’s the most provocative work of art that I have ever created,” Judd said.
“It is about many forms and levels of violence: It is about sexual abuse. It is about the destructive effects of the fashion industry on the people who grow, sew and model clothing as well as those of us who are made to feel inadequate in numerous ways so as to ‘feed’ the industry with consumers.
It is about the destruction we have done to the body of Mother Earth. It is about the over 200 toxic chemicals deposited in each of our bodies from our poisoning of the Earth.”
Judd also said she finds the most challenging aspect of creating her fashion to be making garbage look elegant. That, incidentally, also inspires her artistically. She said her favorite medium is aluminum cans.
“They are easy to cut with normal scissors once you get through the lip with tin snips, and you have so many possible applications,” Judd said.
To register for the free workshops or for the free fashion contest, contact Tom Nagawiecki at 662-8383 or tom.nagawiecki@lacnm.us.
Registration may also be done online at losalamosnm.us/getgreen. Seating for the workshops is limited.
Los Alamos County is sponsoring the workshops, thanks to grant funding received from New Mexico Clean and Beautiful.  
For more information about the county’s sustainability program visit losalamosnm.us/getgreen.