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That top is so last year... and that was a good thing at Eco Fashion Week

A woman models an
A woman models an 'upcycled' outfit in the Runway Reimagined show.
— image credit: Allison DeAngelis

The average North American typically throws out or donates 68 pounds of clothing annually. That number rose to 81 pounds in 2015.

With that staggering statistic in mind, fashion veteran and Eco Fashion Week founder Myriam Laroche combined forces with Bellevue-based Value Village to showcase exactly how everyday people can integrate secondhand clothing into their closet — or repurpose existing items to create completely original pieces.

“There’s still that thought that only poor people should wear secondhand clothing and [that such clothing is] gross,” Laroche said. “We want to be a bit louder, to help the industry shift to a healthier way of manufacturing clothing.”

This is the first year that “Runway Reimagined” has been put on in Seattle. Laroche started Eco Fashion Week in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2011 after spending 20 years working in the fashion industry in Montreal.

“When I arrived in Vancouver, there was no real fashion industry, and they wanted to be the cleanest city in the world by 2020,” she said. “I thought, ‘What can I do to help that? Let’s bring responsible, healthy fashion!’”

Seattle, she said, was the next logical step in expanding Eco Fashion Week, Laroche said.

Three designers — Carlie Wong, Alyssa Blanco and Karla Ortiz — were tasked with either designing new garments from 68 pounds of clothing that hadn’t sold at Value Village or styling modern outfits from used items, for under $50 per outfit.

After sifting through piles of oversized jackets with shoulder pads, oversized velvet dresses from the ‘90s and other decades-old items, Wong said she found it best to create a monotone collection utilizing a variety of textures and detailing. Mixed in with the outdated pieces were comparatively more expensive leatherwear or intricately beaded items from Value Village.

What emerged was a chic collection of sheer blouses, beaded dresses and two-piece crop top and skirt combos.

“I don’t use a lot of secondhand items in my work, but I do in my personal style,” she said. “It helps to look for details that can be repurposed. Even just changing the buttons can make a big difference.”

Both Laroche and the designers agreed it’s important not to go shopping for secondhand clothing with a specific goal in mind. Instead, shoppers should fill their carts with anything that catches their eye and edit out the duds before hitting the register.

“I went into shopping with a vision and came out with a completely different kind of vision,” Ortiz said. “I was originally thinking I’d do something à la Alexander Wang, and I created a Gucci spring/summer kind of collection.”

Shoppers should take their time — at least an hour, Laroche said — and start small with accessories.

As Eco Fashion Week grows, Laroche said she hopes to bring more events to Seattle with more local designers participating. Attendees should also keep an eye out for possible collaborations with jewelry, shoes and bag designers.

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