A parade of little girls kicked off Redress Raleigh's fifth annual Eco-Fashion Show at the downtown Raleigh Marriott hotel Saturday evening. The kindergarteners strolling down the runway wore periwinkle blue dresses that once were button-down shirts, and each held a floating balloon on a long sateen string.
It was a fitting opening, in a sense, for Redress Raleigh is no older than these upstart models. Founded by Beth Stewart, Mor Aframian and Jamie Powell after their first collaborative fashion show in 2008, Redress Raleigh has risen from its humble beginnings as a volunteer organization to become a qualified S corporation last year.
The enterprise, which bills itself as a "combination event planning agency and marketing firm," held its first weekend-long conference, where students and fashion aficionados from across the nation came to learn from and mingle with industry experts. The conference highlight was the Eco-Fashion Show, while the weekend culminated with a Sunday marketplace that featured more than 20 designers and vendors.
"We got kind of comfortable with the fashion show," said Powell, the group's operations director. "This was definitely stepping out of the box for us. But so many people have worked so much for the past six months to get everything organized so that this could happen."
The show at the Marriott, with more than 500 in attendance, was an eclectic 90-minute showcase of the work of some of the foremost eco-friendly designers in the region. One consistently eye-catching and reimagined garment was the dress: Flowing, bohemian gowns, boldly patterned maxi-dresses, cutout sundresses and structured, intricately detailed formalwear were staples of this year's show. Also featured were dapper menswear, statement jewelry and accessories, and children's wear.
The Redress designers share a commitment to ecologically responsible design and production practices, which can include up-cycling old garments or jewelry into new, higher-quality pieces, using zero-waste patterns, repurposing fabrics and using recycled raw materials to craft their designs. The hope of Redress is to encourage and lead a movement toward such improved practices.
As Stewart, the strategic director of Redress, told the audience during the show's intermission, "We want to be a catalyst for change in the fashion and textiles industry."
Currently the 10-person team behind Redress Raleigh works to connect eco-friendly designers with customers by planning events (such as trunk shows, small-scale fashion shows and clothing swaps) for the designers and helping them to develop their brands.
"We've found a lot of designers love producing, and they're good at designing, but they're not as good at marketing themselves," said Stewart. "We'd love to do that for them."
Aframian, who serves as community relations director, says she would like Redress Raleigh to be the Vogue of sustainable fashion.
"I'd like to build that relationship between the customer and the product they choose to purchase," Aframian said. "We're not just saying, 'Hey, here's a designer, this is great fashion,' but instead, 'Hey, if you're going to invest in this great piece, this is how you should take care of it.'"
This article appeared in print with the headline "Dress with less."