Review by Chloe Harnett – Hargrove
GreenWorks’ Environmental Awards and Trashion Show begins at 7 pm in one of the Hilton’s elegant ballrooms near Biltmore Village. Percussion pulses over a stage lit with green and lined with Styrofoam packaging zip-tied into sculpture. Before Helen Chickering of Blue Ridge Public Radio and Blake Butler take the stage as co-hosts, Asheville Contemporary Dance Theater performs “Death by Plastica.” Four dancers climb from a large six-pack ring, falling down the stage, caught in their plastic entanglements like the victimized sea turtles we’ve all seen in photographs.
The energy was distinctively Asheville, with the crowd’s Nikes and business casual, kitten heels and pant-suits. Environmental Awards are given between looks; for Lifetime Achievement, Individuals, Organizations, Businesses, Education, and a Golden Shovel for an innovative and collaborative project. The accompanying music changes for each outfit as well, hence the 30 seconds of Aerosmith that are blasted after a traditional Japanese flute, which is played after David Bowie. I am noting five designers – out of the 20 that participated — which I thought were the most community-driven and environmentally-inspired.
Andra Cagle’s mermaid design, like the ACDT’s performance moments before, alludes specifically to the litter that plagues sea animals. Six-pack rings bounce around her coffee-filter-skirt while a bodice forms from bubble-wrap.
Emma Jones — in a mini-dress of duck-tape and a crayon-filled bandoleer slung over one shoulder — walks with a purpose in wedge-Converse, her military cap Sharpie-d over with #Enough. Exchanging bullets for crayons embodies her call for safe education to be valued over arms. The imagery is sobering, as is the reference to gun violence that is made even more poignant considering its presence in the hands of this 12-year-old designer.
Ona Armstrong’s “Tar-Geisha” steps out in a halter-top bodycon made entirely from Target grocery bags. Red is splashed over the wedding-inspired gown while netting from a sloped headdress falls over caked Kabuki makeup.
Wendy Pittillo constructed her mini-dress from cigarette butts collected exclusively in Asheville’s parks. She painted the remains gold and sewed them to a base of bubble wrap, creating an iridescence that shimmers with her model’s stride.
Ida Bostian’s design provides the finale with local performer Natasha Nightly as a model. Like a Drag Queen Mother Ginger, her skirt melts into performers swathed in black trash-bag bodysuits. Floating down the runway in the lace bodice and paper flowers that are left of the gown, with glittery nails that can be seen from four rows away, she flicks open an enormous fan.
The show filled with fantasy, light fabric, and billowing plastics reigned as designing material. But amidst the make-believe, armor and militia also made an appearance. Harsh edges in the same plastic emphasized precarious ideals of our power and influence in the community. The Environmental Awards and Trashion Show honored members and exhibited fashion, but it also stressed the importance of responsible citizenship. GreenWorks stands as one of the best examples of Asheville’s commitment to the environment, and volunteers are their primary means of supporting their goal “to inspire, equip, and mobilize individuals and communities to take care of the places we love to live.” As we sat under the purple spotlights and watched the designers present their concepts of “taking care of the places we love,” ideas wrapped up in their grocery-bag dresses and paper clutches, it seemed like we were moving ever closer to that goal.