MARQUETTE - A dress made out of a tent? How about paper bags?
Two Marquette women have made fashion part of their sustainable lifestyles by creating clothing from recycled materials and second-hand clothes.
Marquette native Lanni Lantto, 29, got interested in recycled fashion when she made her Marquette Senior High School prom dress from her grandmother's old slips, corset and lace 10 years ago.
Marquette native Mia Cinelli, pictured here, won the recycled category of the Port Moody Arts Centre Wearable Arts Awards, based in British Columbia, Canada, with this dress made out of 50 paper bags. (Mia Cinelli photo)
"I didn't think of it as recycling - I just thought the material was beautiful and I knew I could design something that represented my style more than the cookie cutter, expensive store-bought dresses," she said. "Ever since then, I've found myself drawn to second-hand and antique stores looking for things to piece together."
Over the past year, when Lantto was living and teaching in Ithaca, N.Y., she made 22 dresses out of a recycled tent; antique, vintage and thrift store finds; recycled fabrics; and household materials.
"I've made pieces from curtains, tablecloths, 1800s nightgowns, bed sheets, and even an outdoor tent," she said. "Basically, if it's hanging in your house or you're eating off of it, I can make it into a dress."
While Lantto doesn't call recycled fashion a trend, she said it's just something that makes sense if living a sustainable lifestyle.
"We consume way too much and there truly is no need to be manufacturing so much new clothing," she said. "The Earth is hurting and it's time we took responsibility, not only listening but acting. Why shop at the Big Box stores and add to the monstrous waste and landfills when you can have way more fun creating your own personalized T-shirt? It's simpler and you feel better about yourself - that is a great lifestyle change."
Lantto has gotten so involved in her hobby that she now hopes to make a living from it.
"I would like to develop a sustainable business model that encourages creativity over mass production, and create a real cultural and ideological shift in this country and the world," she said. "I am currently spending the summer in Europe to research their perspectives on eco-fashion and to hopefully get myself out there as a designer."
Another Marquette native, Mia Cinelli, 20, recently won the recycled category of the Port Moody Arts Centre Wearable Arts Awards program in British Columbia, Canada.
"(My dress) is entirely made out of paper bags," she said, adding that she used 50 bags to make an archetypal gown with 16 yards of brown paper bag lace. "The dress itself cost $10."
Cinelli, who is a graphics communications major at Northern Michigan University, said she wants people to think about sustainability in a broader sense and not just in terms of conserving energy or "getting a compost pile."
"So many people don't think of sustainability as something beautiful," she said. "People aren't thinking about it outside of the box."
Cinelli said she believes sustainable fashion will be a huge market soon, and she keeps working toward participating in that market. In fact, she just finished a dress made out of lace bed sheets.
For more information on the wearable arts contest, go to www.wearableartawards.com.
To contact Lantto, e-mail her at email@example.com.