Goodwill of Silicon Valley is overhauling its image. The nonprofit no longer wants its name to be synonymous with thrift shopping and penny-pinching. Goodwill is jumping on the trendy green-living and sustainable community wave. It is now emphasizing itself as a champion of recycling and fashionable reuse, as well as a jobs program during the challenging economy.
The second-annual Goodwill Generations of Change Fall Fashion Show took place last Friday evening. The fashion charity event highlighted the secondhand clothing group’s new dedication to reducing landfill waste by repurposing the unwanted resources local communities already have.
“I think Goodwill really is the original recycler,” says Mike Fox Jr, CEO of the nonprofit. He spoke to the crowd at the beginning of the runway show. “We not only hire people, but we also generate revenues that can then be used for training programs for people with barriers to employment. We do that by repurposing, recycling and reusing.”
“We have carpet recycling, mattress recycling. And, any textile or clothing that ends up at Goodwill, not one bit of it ends up in the landfill,” he says.
The swanky style event was held on the second floor of the modern, elegant Marriot Hotel in downtown San Jose. The runway show for a good cause drew Silicon Valley leaders including San Jose Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio and Jim Cunneen. After a cocktail reception and sit-down dinner, the Marriot’s ballroom’s lights dimmed and first of the show’s four stylish segments began. It kicked off with a historic collection of museum-quality fashions, collected over the years by Goodwill board members. The collection of luxurious flouncy-necked Victorian blouses, real vintage fox furs, recycled mink coats and sparkly, beaded, drop-waist flapper dresses was a wonder to see on the teenage models strutting down the catwalk.
“It harkens back to a secret collection that people do not know we have here at Goodwill, called the ‘Elegance of Yesteryear,’” show event chairwoman Susan Lucas said of the first segment. “[It’s] a collection of the finest clothing that was donated to Goodwill from the 1850s through the 1950s, all phenomenal originals.” Next on the catwalk came the “Little Black Dress” segment of the fashion extravaganza. This competition portion of the show was made up of actual black Goodwill-donated dresses that were “refashioned” by local textile design students. High-quality but out-of-date fashions were transformed into edgy, sexy, modern cocktail garb made of organza, velvet, silk, chiffon and lots and lots of lace.
Erandeny Torres, a West Valley College fashion program student, received top honors in this segment. Her winning design was a futuristic, Lady Gaga–inspired frock edged with glow-in-the-dark neon necklaces.
“I didn’t want to do a plain little black dress, I wanted to do something that would look good on the runway,” says Torres of her winning design. “Against the black fabric, they [the glow sticks] just glow, and since they are different colors, it looks really cool.”
Segment three debuted with a hunky male model showing off “Eco: Streetwear.” This urban-inspired daywear collection was made entirely out of donated materials. Models strode down the runway in high, strappy platform heels, tight worn denim jeans and sleek, moto-collared leather jackets. Made by brand Platinum Dirt, the hide coats were actually sewn from cut-out recycled leather and suede car seats, salvaged from vehicles destined for the junkyard. Even the one-of-a-kind leather jacket’s zipper pulls were adorned with the corresponding cars’ hood ornament symbols.
Finally, “Eco: Eveningwear” rounded off Goodwill’s style show-off. Thumping pop music blasting, the crowd oohed and awed as the ballrooms lights were turned off, and a long white dress adorned with blinking lights was sent down the runway. This avant-garde garment was also designed by Torres.
Select pieces from the minimalist-chic, eco-conscience fashion line Amour Vert were also part of the eveningwear display. Amour Vert is manufactured entirely in the United States from natural, organic and sustainable fabrics.
Proving to be the most edgy fashion event downtown San Jose has seen in recent memory, the Goodwill Generations of Change Fall Fashion Show concluded with a final strut by the models up and down the runway to applause.