Students Create Environmentally Sustainable Fashion Line


Students Create Environmentally Sustainable Fashion Line

Model Hannah Grace Vaughan poses in “Newsflash” of the Modern Chaos series.
Model Hannah Grace Vaughan poses in “Newsflash” of the Modern Chaos series.

Local high school seniors recently began an environmental conversation by using their artistic creativity and passion for fashion design and photography to advocate for ecological sustainability within the world. 

International Baccalaureate Programme at Lamar Academy students Gisselle Costa and Denisse Damken are the designers of a fashion line completely made out of recycled materials. The project raises awareness of environmental conservation. 

“The name of our project, Modern Chaos, illustrates what we are trying to call attention to,” Costa said. “If we don’t address this environmental issue, we are going to be facing chaos and irreversible damages on our planet. The name is very attention-grabbing. It calls the attention of the audience and pushes them to be conscious of their actions on the environment. ”

Each piece they plan to make will have its own theme and color palette. They will address different topics, such as water pollution, air pollution and everyday waste.

“Animals are being harmed by pollution,” Damken said. “Turtles and whales are washing up on shore with tons of plastic inside of them. An island of plastic bags the size of Texas is floating in the Pacific Ocean right now.”

“It’s a big issue, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better,” Costa said. “We need to do something now because time is running out. We all know that global warming is going to become irreversible soon, so the time to act is now.”

Modern Chaos serves a multi-faceted purpose

This is their call to action to address not only pollution but also the injustice within the fashion industry itself.

“The fast clothing industries, such as H&M and Forever 21, release new clothing based on trends that are constantly changing. They mass produce low-quality clothing and sell them at a cheap price, and this leads to people buying things they don’t need,” Costa explained. “As a result, when people end up throwing away their clothes, they over-accumulate in landfills instead of being recycled or donated to charities or thrift stores.”

“Factories that produce this clothing also waste a variety of different resources, such as a lot of electricity and water,” Damken said. 

“There is also a lot of immorality within the fashion industry, as well,” Costa said. “The workers are not paid enough for their hard labor and must endure really harsh working conditions. It is truly immoral to buy from these stores that mistreat their workers.”

Damken and Costa also hope to change the way people think about shopping.

“Thrift shopping is a great way to shop sustainably and to express your individuality,” Costa said. “You actually have to look for things and what works best for you. Options at normal stores are already pre-set and given to you. At thrift shops, you get to mix and match, and you can find things that fit you, and that expression of who you are becomes more impactful. Not only are you looking for unique things, but you can completely remodel them and make them your own.”

Costa and Damken also want to change the way people view the fashion industry entirely.

“Fashion isn’t taken seriously because there are a lot of stereotypes about what fashion is all about,” Costa explained. “It’s often disregarded as an art, and art itself can be disregarded, but we are using our own fashion to bring awareness to these problems.”

Melissa Gomez models “Error” from Modern Chaos.
Melissa Gomez models “Error” from Modern Chaos.

Finding a niche

Modern Chaos is geared towards high-school students, like the designers themselves. 

“Right now, we are teenagers and we are about to go into the world to make it a better place as much as we can,” Damken said. “I think this is the perfect time to expose our class and the younger classes to topics like this. We are in a stage of life where we try to stay on trend, and we are showing that you can still do that but in a more sustainable way.”

“In order to start our project, we had to do a lot of brainstorming and research to actually develop and design the pieces,” Costa shared. “It’s very hard to revamp thrifted clothes and stick these items on fabric. We had to research lots of different techniques and creative designs we wanted to work with.”

“Newsflash” is the first piece Costa and Damken have released for their line so far. It is made up of a thrifted blazer and a pair of boots they restyled, made of newspaper. They have many future plans for their fashion line. 

“We intend to create six sustainable pieces of fashion using high-school students to model them and printing posters and a lookbook made out of recycled paper to showcase our fashion photography,” Damken said.

They are also planning to host a runway show earlier next year at a school event to present their hard work. 

Modern Chaos brings a love to life

Both Costa and Damken shared that this project stemmed from their love for the arts. 

Damken has always been interested in the arts, such as theater and art. She was introduced to photography by her sister; they bonded as they shared experiences of photo shoots. Those intimate moments sparked her love for photography. 

“It’s so complicated, but it looks so simple,” Damken said.  “It’s a certain ambiance; the capture of a moment. That’s what I love about it — you can show the beauty of the world that people don’t normally see.”

Additionally, Damken’s admiration for fashion design stems from her father, who taught her how to sew at a young age.

Costa said she gained her love for fashion from her mother. “My mom has always been into designer brands, and she has a very unique style. She knows how to pick out something you would never think would work, and she is sustainable in the way she dresses. She has clothes even from the ’80s.”

“My dreams came to life with Denisee,” Costa shared. “I have been fashion designing since I was 11, creating my own clothes in my head when I would go to a store and didn’t like anything in there. I design in my head subconsciously and involuntarily now. Fashion is so broad and versatile, and it’s something in people’s everyday life, so that’s what drew me to it.”

“Fashion is the story of a society,” Costa said, “to tell an entire story with just clothes, being able to create something people wear every single day, and being able to connect them with it. I have always loved it. I have always wanted to be able to create that one thing that connects people, but also makes them individual.”

The future is bright

Both Costa and Damken said this project affected their future plans after high school. 

Costa plans to follow her passion for fashion.  She was recently accepted into Parsons School of Design in New York City, one of the best fashion-design schools in the world.  She will be pursue a degree in fashion design, but she was truly impacted by this project in a different way. 

“This project helped me see that fashion can be for a good cause,” she explained. “I can do something to change the world and reduce pollution in the fashion industry and do something new. It activated my creative mind, and it is something completely different and something I want to keep doing. “

Damken always wanted to become a behavioral analyst and work with the FBI, but this project was the push she needed to also consider photography as an integral part of her life. “Now I wouldn’t mind working for the fashion industry as a fashion photographer,” she said. 

 “With Modern Chaos, we just wanted to show people that it’s not that hard to help the environment, to act now, and we can be artistic and use our creativity when we do so,” Damken said. “It’s a very fun and very cool way to bring attention to such an important issue, and we hope that others are inspired to do the same.”

Behind this project are teens with goals to change established industries and save the Earth with intellect, artistry and creativity.

Author Alexis Alvarado is a student with McAllen ISD.