Students’ recycled materials backdrop adorns fashion show

Weiling He

Guests at a the Trash Makeover Challenge, a unique Austin fashion show, posed for selfies and other photos in front of a giant, interactive backdrop fashioned by Texas A&M environmental design students from recyclable cups, bottles, cans and other refuse.

The backdrop was erected in a reception area for the Sept 16 runway show where innovative designers created clothes made of repurposed materials such as empty sweetener packets, seat belts, reconstructed textiles, and whatever else struck clothing designers’ fancy.

The first-year students, led by Weiling He, associate professor of architecture, designed the backdrop after reviewing the work of Yayoi Kusama, a versatile Japanese conceptual artist who influenced Andy Warhol and other pop art luminaries, as well as minimalist and feminist artists.

Circles, which provided a lifelong inspiration for Kusama’s avant-garde pieces, were echoed in the students’ colorful plastic containers fastened together by thousands of plastic zip ties in the 17.5’ x 8’ wall.

Before designing and building the wall, students investigated basic but critical architectural design concepts including composition, space, scale, material, structure, and craftsmanship, said He.

Another class, led by Jinsil Hwaryoung Seo, assistant professor of visualization, added an interactive element to the wall that allowed guest to project a variety of moving light patterns with translucent chips.

The wall installation marked the second year that He’s students participated in the Trash Makeover Challenge. In 2016, students created a backdrop of recycled materials with hundreds of repurposed milk jugs and LED lights.

He’s artistic creations from recyclables include “Milky Way,” a December 2015 installation at the Brazos Valley African-American Museum, and “Plastic Poetry,” a giant piece made of plastic grocery bags exhibited at the University of Texas in 2013.


Richard Nira

posted September 19, 2017