'Sustainabilitee': Eco-Fashion Team wins for turning recycled T-shirts into one-of-a-kind ensemble

With this ensemble, even the dog gets to go green.

The Eco-Fashion team from Cornell's Office of Publications and Marketing has won prizes in this year's Green T Reuse Design Contest, an Ithaca-based project of SewGreen, a nonprofit organization encouraging sustainability in fabric, fiber and fashion.

The team's ensemble, dubbed "The Realitee for Humanitee: Sustainabilitee," was created entirely out of more than 100 recycled T-shirts and consists of a festive reversible cape, a hat that converts into a drawstring purse, a coordinated belt and a "canine couture coat" with a designer leash.

"This was designed for the wearer and the dog to do the Waterfront Trail together," said graphic designer Wendy Kenigsberg, a member of the team that also included Lorraine Heasley, Dennis Kulis, Linda Mikula, Deena Rambaum, Leigh Ann Sullivan, Donna Vantine and Sally Dutko.

The team won first prize in the jackets, coats and outerwear category and a contestwide "Most Artistic" award -- conceived specifically to honor the team's extraordinary effort, said SewGreen coordinator Wendy Skinner. More than 100 entries were submitted in 15 categories by about 60 designers ranging in age from under 12 to over 70 and from beginners to professionals.

Contest materials from SewGreen noted that conventional cotton is the most toxin-intensive fiber on the planet. Conventional cotton farming uses 25 percent of the world's agricultural pesticides and herbicides, while occupying just 2.4 percent of the usable farmland. It requires one-third of a pound of pesticides and herbicides to produce the cotton required for a typical T-shirt and three-quarters of a pound for a conventional pair of jeans, SewGreen reported. Only about 3 percent of cotton is grown organically, reports SewGreen, which also points out that Americans throw away about 70 pounds of clothing a year, 80 percent of which end up in landfills.

The contest called for using recycled cotton clothing and fabrics.

Team members are even recycling the recycled T-shirts they didn't use to a local 4-H club that plans to make dog leashes out of the scraps as a fundraiser.

"It was a lot of fun, and what was so cool about it is that I don't think we ever dreamt of all the things you could really do with a T-shirt," Mikula said.

The ensemble, along with other winning entries in the contest, will be featured in a gallery exhibit at the Community School of Music and Arts from April 4-14 and in a fashion show April 27 during Ithaca's Earth Day celebration at the Farmers' Market pavilion at Steamboat Landing.

Last year's entry by the Publications and Marketing team, a dress made from hundreds of pages of shredded paper, won "Best in Show" and was displayed at the New York State Fair.

For more information on the contest, SewGreen and sustainable sewing and ethical shopping, visit http://www.sew-green.org.

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