Upcycled denim chemise featured in Elaine Healy’s Vixen Scream | SS16 look book as seen on model Marie Mashyna. For this second-hand garment, Healy bleached it, tore it into strips and applied it in an overlap stitch. Price available upon request. Go to http://www.elainehealy.com/ for more information. Photo by Dana Broeker.
Designer Elaine Healy Debuted Showstopping Upcycled Runway Frocks
by Reese Randall
THE MUCH-ANTICIPATED RUNWAY RePURPOSED FASHION SHOW BENEFITING THE SALVATION ARMY'S FAMILY CARING CENTER TOOK STRIDE THIS PAST WEEK IN SHERATON STATION SQUARE.
October 20, 2021
For as incredibly talented as Elaine Healy is as a fashion designer when sharing a behind-the-scenes exclusive, she admits to a secret. “I’m really bad about something,” says Healy. “I’m bad about throwing away scraps and I save lots and lots of things. I look at pieces or items left behind by others and I see their potential and I keep them.” Healy ponders about this and frequently asks herself what she can do with all of these leave-behinds?
It was no surprise to Healy when this year’s curators of Runway RePurposed (formerly known as Garbage Bag Gala) approached her to feature her designs. For Healy, the importance of ‘walk the talk’ is top-of-mind. “Participating in past fashion shows such as this I recognize that aspect of the challenge and was looking forward to designing garments that incorporate reused or upcycled materials,” says Healy.
A factor Healy finds interesting regarding shows that feature eco-friendly chic designs is that many designers buy new materials to complete the challenge of reuse and repurposed garments. Healy has experienced this, too. “I’m earth conscience and I found myself buying new materials to repurpose a garment, such as a new box of trash bags to design something new.”
During Covid-19, Healy began noticing how much product was left behind from home food delivery services. “I began collecting meal delivery bags during the pandemic,” says Healy. “I thought I could do something with these.” The mail delivery bags will be the main material Healy is using for the show while she creatively imagines utilizing the bags in a completely different way. “I am vindicated for keeping around this trash,” shares an excited Healy. The other materials she will be using are party decorations. “They are fun and a decadent thing that catches your eye and livens up a room quickly,” says Healy. Making commentary about what happens with all of the décor after a party has ended Healy says it is a waste that can be resolved. “When I see the balloons or iridescent party curtains going into the trash, I immediately see them floating into the ocean and it’s hard to see that happen,” says Healy. She ponders more and imagines making a top out of the party décor. “These together should make a very futuristic and fun garment,” says Healy.
The fashion-forward designer adds that having a good relationship with her models makes every designer moment engaging, whether on the runway, a fitting or photoshoot. “My model friend Marie and I met through doing fashion shows together and she’s been someone I’ve worked with and has been friends with for many years. Having a good relationship with your models helps the impact of your statement and makes each piece more dynamic,” says Healy.
The 2012 graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh learned how to sew in her middle school home economics class. “As soon as I began working on a sewing machine, I would upcycle T-shirts and cut them apart! That’s how I learned the basics of constructing clothing,” says Healy. She would look at something that didn’t quite fit her, and she could see how she could make it work or how she could tweak it. “To this moment, my work isn’t meticulously planned. It starts out one way and it’s an evolution,” says Healy. Her need to gather scraps has continued and her eye has always been drawn to texture and fabric. “My fiancé, Alex is patient of my hoarding! He’s a very well-dressed man, so he gets it.”
At the end of the day, an Elaine Healy collection is made up of everyone who is a part of it. “As I’ve made more designs and honor the work I’ve done, I see it as a continuous process and I never run out of inspiration — I know it will evolve into the next thing.”
For more information, go to https://easternusa.salvationarmy.org/western-pennsylvania/runway-repurposed/