Student debuts Little Green Dress collection

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Save your bottle caps, hold onto your newspapers, and don’t throw out your bubble wrap, because your trash could very well become another girl’s dress.

Some fashion designers hit the streets of Paris for the finest fabrics, others travel to China for the most intricate embellishments, but 20-year-old designer Melanie Seligman searched her local recycling bins for her latest collection.

Now a third-year arts and humanities student at Western, Seligman describes her lifelong affinity for fashion.

“At first I wanted to design more original clothing that I could not find in stores. But I later realized that I just wanted to design clothing that made people feel confident and beautiful in their own bodies.”

At first she would take fabrics to a dressmaker to create her original designs, but this arrangement didn’t last long. Her mother taught her to sew and soon she was stitching her own creations.

“I figured since I had such a passion for design, it would benefit me to learn how to use a sewing machine so I could envision pieces and see them through to completion.”

Previously focusing on the creation of individual pieces, the budding designer’s Little Green Dress line marks her first collection.

“This is my first cohesive collection that I’ve designed, there is a common theme of ‘recycling’ that ties all the dresses together. Prior to this, my pieces haven’t really stuck to a particular theme or idea. They have simply been individual pieces.”

With “going green” an established trend in fashion, Seligman cites designer Gary Harvey as a source of inspiration for her collection.

“Harvey is an example of someone who explores [the idea of going green]. He went to thrift stores and collected discarded items that had one-time uses like military uniforms and wedding dresses and created dresses out of them,” Seligman says. “I like the idea of taking items that would have previously been discarded and making them into something both useful and beautiful.”

Excited by the work of Harvey, Seligman wanted to go one step further. Using a variety of recycled goods including tarps, tin cans, bubble wrap, cardboard and burlap tree covers in the construction of her dresses, Seligman finds an innovative purpose for materials that are literally trash.

“I wanted to turn other people’s waste into something beautiful, giving it new purpose and function. Of course, most of these pieces are not wearable, but serve more as pieces of art,” she says.

Her show-stopping designs have garnered their fair share of attention, and already made their debut at Western’s OHM and Hillel fashion shows. Though clearly flattered, Seligman remains humble.

“It’s very exciting to get recognized for your work, but even more exciting to be able to convey an important, meaningful message to a lot of people, particularly young people,” Seligman says. “Our generation is starting to see the environmental ramifications of the way past generations have over-consumed, and it is up to us to make a difference. And what better way to get across the message than in fun outlets like art and fashion?”

Before her collection’s official debut, Seligman allowed a sneak peek of her line to loyal fans. One such devotee is co-producer of the Hillel fashion show, Devin Skurka.

“Through her fashion-forward recycle line, Melanie has demonstrated that she has a tremendous talent,” Skurka says. “That she has conceived a collection intended to disseminate her eco-friendly message demonstrates her tremendous heart. With such a combination, it is without doubt that her mark in the world of fashion will be indelible.”

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