Gathering Garbage

A few years ago, Gugu Zuma showed some bored kids in her community how to make wallets out of discarded tetrapak.

“They loved this and I thought why not make more things and have a Trashion Show?” she remembers. “I mentioned this to my friend Nikki Brighton and together we made it happen. The first show in Dargle was not that well supported but after that everyone wanted to be part of it!  Some of them still use those wallets today and many make toys out of waste. I am so pleased because it stops the burning of rubbish.”


This year, the Annual Trashion Show will be held for the fourth time – each year it has grown, and the creativity of participants has astonished the audience.

Across the Midlands, learners are collecting rubbish, planning their costumes and trying out designs. Shea O’Connor School pupils wore their creations to the Happy Earth Festival held in Pietermaritzburg this month,  and impressed the hundreds of other learners that attended with their eco-style.

Thandolwethu Khanyile, a Grade 5 learner at Shea O’Connor, is determined to make the best dress ever for this year’s show. “I will be Queen of Trashion,” she says, “I was inspired and motivated by the other learners’ attire last year. When I leave school, I want to open a fashion boutique called Thando’s Trashion.”   Grade 9 pupil Asanda Malinga can’t wait either. “I have wanted to do this my entire life. I love designing and I feel sadness and disappointment when I see all the litter in the streets. My message is we must re-use trash.”

trashion kids at happy earth festival
Thandolwethu Khanyile and Siphesihle Mchunu at the Happy Earth Festival

Although Nonkanyiso Dladla is in her final year at school and needs to focus on studying, she wants to leave her mark by making the best dress ever. “It will be a reminder to me and the world that we must conserve our environment. Some people say you are mad when you pick up litter, but when they see the beautiful things we make, they are amazed.” Spesihle Mnchunu has participated before and plans to make a memorable outfit. “At home we don’t burn or throw anything away, we make something with the waste. Even our neighbour has started making clothes and vases using waste materials.”


Bevlyn Maluwati is planning a long dress with a tail, and high heeled shoes, Chataika Blessward intends making a show stopping suit and tie, Hannah Zunckel plans to create a colourful swan ballerina costume, while Zaca Ayabonga is making a traditional Zulu outfit.

Noluntu Masinga, Ahkona Zwane and Asanda Malinga
Noluntu Masinga, Akhona Zwane and Asanda Malinga at the Happy Earth Festival

In Mpophomeni, nearly 50 excited kids gathered last weekend for a workshop armed with their ‘under construction’ outfits.


Mpophomeni Conservation Group invited creative dynamo Eidin Griffin to inspire the Mpop Kids Clubs facilitated by the DUCT Envio-Champs, and share some skills but clearly they were already ahead of the game!   It was a fun-filled morning, with the adults having as much fun as the youngsters.  “From practicing their catwalk prances to creating accessories (like spectacles and headbands), everyone had a furiously busy time.” Eidin reports.  “I loved that there was no sqabbling over any of the resources and how each child was able to express their individual style and flair using just waste.”  By the end of the morning the Mpophomeni Community Hall resembled an African Renaissance scene from Black Panther.  It was a magical transformation!


This year, the organisers expect at least 200 learners from Impendle, Bruntville, Pietermaritzburg, Mpophomeni, Durban, Port Sheptone and the Drakensberg for a fun day of celebrating creativity and reducing environmental footprints.  Join an Eco-Brick making demo, admire necklaces by iPhepa Beads, play on the musical wall made entirely of rubbish, learn about the Pink range of reusable menstrual products. Water Explorer will show you just how much water goes into your clothing.

Trashion Show Advert for social media

Jane Lindley-Thomas of East Coast Radio will join our panel of judges to award prizes that are all recycled or reusable – including E’Yakho Green banner bags, Pink washable menstrual pads, paper beads, Singakwenza skipping ropes and solar lights.  Jane enthuses, “I love this idea. How exciting, I can’t wait and am looking forward to be a part of the fun!” Listen out for trashion interviews on her show from 12 – 3 on weekdays.

Neswelihle Makena
Neswelihle Makena

Many schools in the Water Explorer Programme are joining, delighted that they will earn 300 bonus points for saving waste from the landfill. Water Explorer manager, Bridget Ringdahl reminds everyone “It takes 10 500L to make one new pair of jeans – so show off your secret water savvy design (and help the ocean too).”  Rustic Manor Eco-Club are making beaded bracelets from waste paper. Did you know it takes 10l of water to make one sheet of paper?  Northdene Prep are also almost set to strut their glamorous ballgowns made from waste materials.

port shepstone trashionista
Trashionista from Port Sheptone getting his style on

Organiser Nikki Brighton explains, “The show gives students a chance to shine! To show off their fashion sense and skills and demonstrate their understanding of the value and importance of reusing items. Who would have thought that scrabbling through the bins at the recycling centre, or picking plastic out of gutters could become such a cool thing to do? We won’t be able to save the planet with Trashion Shows, but we sure are having fun – and every bit of plastic that does not end up in an unsuspecting sea bird, is a win for us all.”

detail trashion 2016 137

Madonda Nokwati, who hopes to follow in famous fashion designer David Tale’s footsteps concludes, “stand up for yourself and learn to make your own things, do not wait for others to do it for you. Come up with your own ideas, use your talent and show your skills using free materials.”

trashion show 030

Cheer the trashionistas on 9 June 2018 from 11 am at The Howick Agricultural Hall.

Mpophomeni Conservation Group will sell delicious vetkoek filled with locally grown veggies. Entrance is free.

Previous Trashion Shows:

2017  Foraged Fashion

2016 Trashionistas Unite to Save the Planet

2015 Dargle Trashion Show



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Christeen says:

    Such a fun way to highlight recycling, kudos Nikki! Love the vibrant creativity every year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Christeen. The kids are astonishing!

    Liked by 1 person

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