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Trash Couture 

click to enlarge High culture: Tin lids and sheet metal at Discard Avant Garb. The recycled-fashion show/exhibit struts its stuff again on October 21. - ED ATKESON
  • Ed Atkeson
  • High culture: Tin lids and sheet metal at Discard Avant Garb. The recycled-fashion show/exhibit struts its stuff again on October 21.

There aren’t many rules for Discard Avant Garb. The charity fashion show that creates clothing out of trash has probably broken more rules than it created, but over the years the founders have established some guidelines.
For instance, the piñata always comes first, and if there’s a wedding dress, it comes at the end.
In between, says co-coordinator Roxanne Storms, anything goes: A corn husk bikini, a dress made from kiddy pools, a trash bag boa.

The clothes, Storms says, must be made from “75 percent salvaged or recycled materials that are otherwise headed to the trash.” Participants aren’t allowed to use fabric, and they have to manipulate and stretch the discarded materials in weird and imaginative ways.
And stretch they have.

“People who haven’t seen it don’t know what we’re talking about,” says Valerie P. Funk, Storms’ Avant Garb partner. “You just can’t possibly imagine what people will do with this stuff.” Could she be talking about the necklace made of Barbie-arms, the CD-encrusted halter top, the can-can dress woven from VHS tape, the skirt made from Clorox bottles?

Storms and Funk are both veteran Capital Region fashionistas who share a love of vintage clothing. Both have been part of the nightclub, music, and art scenes around Albany for many years. Storms came to the city in 1979, and from 1984 until last year ran Special FX vintage clothing store. Funk has lived in Albany all her life and runs Daybreak Antique Clothing in Albany, where she does vintage costuming for major motion pictures. Her costumes have appeared in such films as The Good Shepherd, The Aviator, Factory Girl, and Flags of Our Fathers.

The two women met recently around Storms’ dining room table, where they flipped through a binder of photographs and news clippings that document their seven years in salvage fashion.

The first Discard Avant Garb was organized in 2000, inspired by a Halloween costume. A friend of Storms had done her trick-or-treating as a “mail-order bride,” decked out in a wedding gown made of bubble wrap. Storms conceived of a whole fashion show built around trash couture, with the proceeds donated to local causes. Artists, musicians, designers, and others signed on, and many continue to take part in the show as both creators and models.

Over the years, the founders have raised the profile of recycling, moving it from bins on the curb to art on the runway, and watched the event evolve from a raucous event at a local rock club to a full-scale production. But one thing hasn’t changed—the show remains very much a grassroots enterprise, with a close-knit group of committee members taking care of everything themselves in order to keep costs down and maximize charitable contributions.

This year’s show promises to provide maximum spectacle, showcasing the work of 30 artists, and featuring several side acts, including a magician and avant-garde puppeteer. Proceeds will be donated to Albany Center Gallery and the Chris Ryan Scholarship Fund, a college scholarship awarded to an Albany High School art student.

The artists have spent months preparing for the short walk across the runway. The creations represent not only innovation, but long days and late nights, and even some personal injury—imagine wearing pants made of pieces of aluminum cans, and maybe you’ll have some idea of what’s at stake.

Discard Avant Garb will take place on October 21 at Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany. Doors open at 6pm, and the curtain goes up at 7:30pm. There is no late seating. Tickets are $20, and the proceeds will be donated to charity. For tickets, call Albany Center Gallery, (518) 462-4775.

For information, (518) 438-0191 or (518) 229-6660.

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