Discarded to Divine Sneak Preview

discarded-to-divine-flyer.jpgWhen it comes to the world of fashion, it’s no secret that most in the industry would tell you that San Francisco can’t compete with hub cities like New York and Los Angeles. And, for better or for worse, I’ve generally agreed with that perspective and held that San Francisco need not attempt to compete. After all, even without an event like Bryant Park, the city is far from a fashion afterthought. We’ve got our own thing going on here, and that’s fine.

But last Friday, a sneak peak tour of this year’s Discarded to Divine collection, now on display at the Gensler offices downtown, changed my mind. San Francisco may not be able to compete on some levels, but events like Discarded to Divine, a benefit from the St. Vincent de Paul Society now in its third year, show the city’s leadership in the realm of sustainable, socially-responsible fashion and design.

And from my perspective, this is just one more sign that San Francisco is growing into a hub for this approach to fashion, one that is becoming increasingly sought after as consumers try to find ethical, positive, socially-responsible ways to consume. Other evidence of this movement being tied to the Bay Area? William Good by San Francisco Goodwill locations, the East Bay‘s Del Forte denim and many other smaller designers.

In fact, D2D’s own acceleration since 2006, when it debuted as a grassroots event showcasing primarily the work of students, to the present is indicative of the mainstream interest in this kind of fashion. At the runway show and auction on April 26, over 90 emerging and student designers will have their creations – all made using at least 50 percent items that St. Vincent de Paul would have otherwise had to discard – showed to an audience at the Academy of Art University at an event chaired by Wilkes Bashford and sponsored by Macy’s. FORD models will walk the runway donning elaborate recycled couture by featured designers Jessica McClintock, Colleen Quen, Cari Borja, Verrieres & Sako, Sara Shepherd, Michael Boris and Nice Collective.

Speaking of designers, bet you’d like to see some fabric fabulousness right about now….Luckily, we are not here to disappoint. And now on with the show.

When I walked into Gensler’s offices last week to tour the collection, event co-chair Sally Rosen and Gensler’s Lori Navarro and Tana Hall (Gensler donates thousands of volunteer hours each year to make this event possible) were there to show me the designs on display in house until April 24.

One of the first I saw was Cari Borja’s floor-length gown, made from repurposed lace, acrylic knit and blue sparkle fabric that I’m pretty sure was something godawful in its former life. But look what Borja’s done with it:


A close-up of Borja’s work:


The piece truly embodies the “discarded to divine” ethos. Another of my favorites comes from Rochele Gloor, a student at CCSF/SFSU, who refashioned a black curtain and a gauze-like skirt lining to make this high-waisted, two-piece ensemble.


Here’s the full-length view:


Academy of Art student Richelle Valenzuela took inspiration from iconic artist Ruth Asawa’s wire sculptures when she designed the gown below using an old curtain donated to St. Vincent de Paul:


For the next design, hotel uniform jackets found new life in designer Stine Ellemose Hansen’s hands. This dress, which is available in a size 10 (“real” sizing is an another aspect of this event that I found interesting and noteworthy), was made with 16 donated jackets. The white dress, by designer Katherine Stempien of S2 Studio, is adjustable for sizes 10 through 14 and incorporates one pair of women’s pants and eight blouses into its goddess-like silhouette.


Here we have a cluster of cocktail dresses. From left, there’s Academy of Art student Anya Parker’s corset top and A-line skirt made from men’s suits, Academy of Art student Amanda Cleary’s black and orange dress made with discarded slacks, FIDM student Joanna Ferreira’s strapless dress made from tie-dyed sarongs and a woman’s dress and, far right, the Nice Collective’s reconstructed jacket made from a cast-off, suede woman’s overcoat.


Here’s a close-up of Cleary’s dress, which features a dramatic neckline of black denim and orange silk organza:


And a close-up of the Nice Collective jacket, which I hear they took down to 3rd St. so cars could run over it and create authentic, natural distressing. Next to the jacket is Academy of Art student Kristen Tool’s cashmere tunic dress, which features pen and ink designs inspired by Maori tribal carvings and tattoos.


And we’ll end with one of this princess-worthy dress by Thomas Haryanto, a student at City College of San Francisco. I just kept looking at it and thinking how fantastic – in the true sense of fantasy – this dress is. It reminds me of a masquerade ball, Alice in Wonderland and little girls’ tea parties all in one.




Plunging back:


These and a slew of fabulous designs made from stained, torn or otherwise unusable clothing donations received by St. Vincent de Paul, which feeds and clothes San Francisco’s most in-need populations, will be auctioned off on April 26. Proceeds from the event will be used by St. Vincent de Paul in its programs assisting the homeless and poor.

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  • sally Rosen

    Thank you so much for this wonderful review…Blessing, Sally

  • Leanne Yinger

    What a terrific show! Displaying some of the most talented fashion and textile students work in the Bay Area as well as raising money for a good cause. Recreating used clothing into works of art is an inspiring and very green thing to do…it is something that San Francisco can be very proud of!

    Peace, Lee

  • kassandra lezcano

    HI my name is kc.
    i love the last dress and i want to know where i can get it.
    because i am haveing a 15’s and the theme is masquerade  and i want it!

  • jemaicah mae locardo

    can i buy it via paypal? credit card?

    • alas, no. it was a one-of-a-kind piece created by a local artist.

  • LadyBird

    OMG, I just LOVE the Cleary-dress. It’s so perfect, and inspiring…
    And, I really like the last dress to, so… fairytale-ish. Just, stunned. Love them.

  • Olivia Sharp

    Is there any way I can purchase the cleary's dress? Or is it not for sale?

    • lorrainesanders

      Hi Olivia –

      Unfortunately all of the Discarded to Divine pieces were auctioned off for charity during the event – so they\’re not for sale. But you could always try tracking down the designer and asking him/her to create a custom order…


      • How would we find the designers of the collection? there are no links to click on the dresses. I am especially interested in the Cleary’s dress.


        thank you

        • lorrainesanders

          Hi Ally –

          Each of the garments in this post was created for Discarded to Divine and auctioned off to benefit a San Francisco non-profit organization. They were one-of-a-kind and are not available for purchase. That said, I would recommend trying to Google Clearly if you\’d like to track her down and see what she\’s designing these days.

          Good luck!