Sam Johnson, a junior studying fashion at ASU, designed a sustainable denim dress from old jeans worn in a fashion show and designer sale hosted by Dress for Success Phoenix in collaboration with the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.
Dress for Success is an organization with the goal of empowering women to achieve economic independence through support and tools necessary to help women succeed in both the workforce and everyday life — a mission Johnson felt aligned with.
The dress, a '60s-inspired denim dress featuring color blocking, which was designed and crafted by Johnson, was showcased on ABC 15 with anchor Ashley Paredez as one of the 15 models in the Oct. 29 event.
The sale at the event gave shoppers the chance to buy high quality designer business attire — the proceeds from which went directly back into the organization to support its mission.
The event featured sustainable business attire for men and women made out of upcycled denim. Designers rummaged through unused, donated clothing and repurposed the pieces for the show, said Lisa Doromal, founder and CEO of Dress for Success Phoenix.
"A big part of our mission is to try to combat clothing ending up in landfills, which is one of the biggest polluters of our globe," Doromal said. "We're trying to be part of the solution and not part of the problem so we ask our designers to repurpose these pieces into new clothing for our models in our show."
Johnson was one of 15 designers from his class who were chosen to have their work displayed at the show. At first, Johnson was planning on creating a menswear look because he typically specializes in men's and androgynous clothing. However, due to a last minute model change, Johnson was tasked with creating his first-ever dress. He worked with recycled denim to make a '60s-inspired piece for Paredez.
"The dress I made was constructed of men's size 40 and 42 jeans from Goodwill and Savers. A cool thing about using recycled denim is that I only had a limited amount of material to work with," Johnson said. "Instead of having yards and yards of fabric, I only had a pant leg. It was fun and different than what I am used to, and was definitely a challenge since this was the first time I ever designed and made a dress."
Johnson faced challenges with this change, but he communicated and organized fittings with Paredez, and the dress came out exactly how the two wanted it to. This was Johnson’s first time working with a client, and he said the experience was a flexible compromise for both parties to ensure the client gets what they want while still having some creative freedom as a designer.
"Initially I wanted a super puffy, colorful dress, but after a second I thought about having Sam make me a dress I could wear on air at work," Paredez said. "I showed him some of my normal work dresses and he started designing based on some of those pictures. He was really creative and came up with a nice design that I was able to wear on the air."
As her first modeling experience and the organization's first fashion show since the pandemic began, Paredez did not know what to expect. The models selected to be in the show are community influencers that are asked to help promote the event and raise awareness for the organization.
Each model had their own website link where people could donate money to benefit the organization as well. The models were asked to aim for raising at least $2,000 each through their links.
"Dress for Success and this event is a great opportunity for ASU fashion students. But it is even more important because when you empower a woman, you also empower her family and it can change a community for the better," Doromal said.
Dress for Success is a great charity and program, Johnson said. Being able to work with the organization and use its facilities was a great opportunity, he could see himself working with it again.
"In the future I would love to have my own line that focuses on on making clothes that any age, size or race feel comfortable in," Johnson said. "My goal would be that all of my clothing fits styles of a broad spectrum of people and that people feel good in."
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Lauren Kobley is a reporter for the Community and Culture desk at The State Press. She has previously interned with the Fountain Hills Times.