Crisp packets litter the landscape of many Midlands villages, tetrapak is often burnt and plastic bottles bob in wetlands. Gutters are clogged with take-away tubs.
There is one ton of plastic for every person on Earth, much of it packaging materials that have been used just once, but that will last for hundreds of years.
At the annual Trashion Show held in mid-July, discarded cans, defunct fans, torn magazines and abandoned coffee cups take on a new life at the hands of creative eco-conscious students intent on standing out on the ramp.
During the winter holidays, children were seen gathering garbage, diving into recycling bins and picking up sweet papers outside tuck shops. With limited municipal collection in many areas, youngsters who are passionate about protecting their environment, understand that there is no such place as ‘away’ – when you throw something away it just lands up being someone else’s problem. The trip to the ocean and into a turtle’s stomach starts right outside your home.
Bottle tops and bubble wrap burst out of buses that had trundled all the way from Impendle, Ixopo, Pennington and the Drakensberg bearing excited trashionistas. The Khazimula Marimba Band, wearing funky pet food waistcoats, welcomed them with lively beats.
From the moment people arrived to mingle with the creative kids in the grounds, they made wonderful memories. Nontobeko Zwane a teacher from Nobanda Primary was thrilled that they felt so welcome and appreciated. “We had an awesome time. It was fun and educational, we learnt a lot. It was super amazing. Mind blowing fun.”
Bimla Kemi from Amanzimtoti noted “the smiles the models wore were most memorable”, educators from Phoenix were amazed at the talent on display, “jaw-dropping” is how Rebecca Wakeford of Midlands Community College described it, and Amanda McCarthy was astonished at the creativity – in particular the wonderful use of materials one never thought would have another life. Thulisile Mkhize of Vuka uQhkaze had a wonderful time, reveling in the creativity and fun.
Snenhlanhla Vilakasi was the first entrant to arrive at #TrashionShow2019
It was the first time that our Official Trashion Photographer, Guy Mc Gowan had attended the show. ” Ah the epitome of cool! These kids really pulled out all the stops when it comes to ingenuity! An immensity of talent, beauty and love at the Trashion Show – a coming-together of school kids from far and wide for a fashion show where only trash was used – highlighting our need to clean up waste and look after our planet. What truly amazed me was that they all wildly cheer each other, not just those from the same schools! No competition, just pure camaraderie and joy! What an epic experience! I was honoured to be invited. ”
Barry Downard is a veteran trashionista (or in his words ” fully recycled”) – having helped judge the Wire and Waste Car category for all five annual events. “What a morning! I was simply blown away by this year’s winner. A tow truck made by Siyamuthanda Nxumalo complete with a crane that winds up and down, the rubber pads on the tow bar, headlights that run off a cellphone battery, doors and bonnet open and close, seats fold forward and back, fully controlled steering with a neatly finished steering wheel, a dice and religious icon hanging from the rear-view mirror, two gear levers – one for 2 wheel drive and one for 4 wheel drive, suspension, and a radio aerial. And check the indicator and light stalks on the steering wheel. Now, just think… this is a rural 11 year-old kid, making this in his home with limited resources and tools. The observation, and then the attention to detail is genius. Tell me this doesn’t deserve respect!”
Alwande Dlamini’s peach petrol tanker impressed, as did Banele Madlala’s taxi – complete with seats and doors. The Best Toyota prize went to Seluleko Ndlovu. The Suma Boy taxi by Akhona Mazibuko won for best use of waste.
Local filmmaker Moses Kiloza captured some of the magic. Learners enjoyed being interviewed. Nomfanelo Mnikathi a teacher from Thembilihle Primary raved “I loved that every participant was recognised individually, even the slow learners were included and Moses asked everyone their views. It made the learners feel very proud. It was an honour to be part of this wonderful event.”
Part of the judging team for the challenging Junior Girls category (100 entrants!) were Phillipa Gordon (and daughter Emma), who looked splendid in fetching horse feed bag dresses with co-coordinating chunky bottle top necklaces. “The detail and creativity of the kids blows me away every year,” said Phillippa, “when you combine huge doses of enthusiasm, determination and dedicated teachers/mentors from mostly rural schools with limited resources – you get magic.”
Reuse, recycle and do it in style was the message. The Junior Girl Judges had fun naming the winning categories – Chip ‘n Dip Khanyile Thandlwethu from Shea O’Connor was ‘eco-brick ready’, Sithelo Mngcobo would have made Steampunk proud with her Traditional Caffeine Kick ensemble, Banele Ntemza had the right accessory, come Rain or Shine, Nqobile Zuma’s creation was dubbed Plastic Fantastic. Asimbbongwe Mdlala was Green Queen (below) and fellow Thembilihle learners, Minnhle Mathonsi was Runway Ready with Spunk, Khanya Shelembe won for her Paper Bling – No Fake News here.
Yasi Kemi was Spar Girl, Ariana Munthrie (no 11) from Northdale won for being the prettiest flower girl and while waiting to parade, made friends with Hannah Zunckel (no 14) of Hilton and Qhakaza Mfeka from Amanzimtoti. Qhakaza (no 13) won best overall with her beautiful design, 100% waste outfit complete with tiara, bag and shoes.
Celenhle Mnikathi (below) was nicknamed the Peacock Prancer with attitude!
The show enables learners who do not have spare money to spend on materials, to explore their design skills, express their creativity and shine – the suburban kids use more yoghurt tubs, the farm kids make the most of feed bags and the township kids collect chip packets and sweet wrappers for their costumes.
It is the attention to detail that always amazes everyone. The handbags, the shoes, the hats, necklaces, earrings and glasses.
The Bridal category was a popular one, but there was no doubt that love was in the air with Akhona S’thebe’s all white ensemble, ensuring she took the prize home.
Golden Girl, Amahle Mthethwa also of Phumelelani Primary sparkled on the ramp.
A new category this year was the ECD fantasy costumes. ECD students at Midlands Community College in Nottingham Road created dress up costumes for the play corners in their classrooms – modeled by teeny tots accompanied by the designers. The prison warder Zandile Ndlovu (front of pic below) designed by Okuhle Mnculwane, won .
Effervescent educator Smanga Dlamini from Shea O’Connor Combined School enthused “This is real life learning – across all grades from primary to grade 12. In primary level it help learners with life skills to practically teach them about taking care of the environment and pollution. At F.E.T level it helps learners in business studies to look at this initiative as small entrepreneurs. In creative art and in technology they apply their designing skills. These are exactly the sort of learners we aim to produce – young people who can apply knowledge and skills in ways that are meaningful in their lives. I was so amazed by the talent and the passion from learners. Thank you for opening doors for us to bring about change in our future leaders.”
“On the way home in the taxis the students were over the moon with excitement for such an opportunity to showcase what they made – especially as many of their parents had come to watch them. The show made them realise that litter is a serious problem and the solution should come from us all,” added fellow teacher Antonia Mkhabela. One learner said that, as he is a king now after scooping top prize in the wire car competition, he will be joining every year.
Thembeka Dladla from Love Life – a project of the the Department of Sports and Recreation – thought the show was amazing. “We need such platforms in our Howick community – please keep up the good work.” she said.
Purity Phungula brought her pupils all the way from Senzakahle School in Ixopo. She was thrilled that they won 4 prizes “I will share the memories of the wonderful creativity we saw today with my community at large. I am still amazed that trash could become such an important resource.” Skulile Khuboni won for her innovative dress and wire sunglasses and Purity received a prize for her beautiful dress made from feed sacks and chip packets.
“I was overwhelmed by the creativity and confidence that our little ones, in particular, displayed. Great potential! Thank you for inviting us. the event was well organized and implemented. My learners are already talking about outfits for next year. ” Paulette Stephens a teacher at Heather Secondary School
In the Senior Girls category – Howick Secondary school pupil Thobeka Ngcobo’s well made and wearable dress with fabulous accessories stood out, Alwande Ximba was a creative Superhero in her metaliic bodice and cape, Sajana Bodray rocked the most stunning long pink plastic braids, Avela Mncwabe’s mermaid dress was utterly unique with wonderful attention to detail and Senhlahla Nxele from Jabula High in Lidgetton modelled a very well made dress crocheted from plastic. Sandiswa Maibuko shared a strong message with her outfit – imploring everyone to be Water Wise. Asanda Malinga was completely over the top in her fluffy number, sisters Amanda and Nomcebo Cele from Mpophomeni worked together – designing one another’s elegant dresses made of green plastic sheets.
Amahle Sokhela modelled the best two piece, with a funky crop top. Noluthando Zamisa’s frock was seriously colourful and made good use of packets.
Sebenzele Mbele from Phumelani Primary in Loskop added “Wow, I had so much fun and explored so much. The guy with the bar one bow tie and lovely outfit drove me crazy!”
In the Junior Boys category – Kwanele Mthethwa was judged best overall – his glasses, shoes, colour and style wowed the judges. Bonele Khuzwayo won a prize for his funky hat, Buyani Mhlongo for his Kappa”backpack, Siphosakhe Peter for his sporting gear.
Dion Mkhize, dressed as a stick fighter, along with Samkelo Mungwe in his Zulu warrior attire, gave brilliant performances on the ramp. Ayanda Ntombele was nicknamed CD man, for obvious reason, while Jordan Chetty’s colourful crochet jacket and briefcase caught everyone eye.
King Gabriel Gonzales and Fantasy Eagle Darwin Putzier delighted the crowd with their confident walk down the ramp and cute waves as they passed one another!
The Senior boys prize winners were: Zolani Ntombela (Shea O’Connor School in Nottingham Road) – his outfit made from mealie meal bags; from Heather Secondary in Pietermaritzburg – Lehaan Pillay won for this fantastic waistcoast and Kaveer Padayachee for the Best Hat. This category was ably judged by Siya Majola and Mark Liptrot (below) – who also won a prize for his fantastic jacket.
Fariya Moosa a teacher at Shokweni Primary in Pennington was delighted that they made the effort to attend. “The poise, design and creative fashion made with all types of waste material filled the ambiance at an awesome event. The mix of colour, race, religion and diversity was phenomenal. Learners exploded with excitement. It is an event that will be marked and never missed. We going to introduce fashion at a parent’s meeting. To encourage and motivate them to save and not waste. Stop pollution. We are going to invite the community as well. I am going to put all the videos I took out on a USB and show the entire school what it means to use waste and stop pollution.”
To give the judges time to deliberate before prize giving, the audience was treated to performances by the Khazimula gumboot dance troupe and some lovely Ballroom and Latin dances by Spirit of the Dance.
The Trashion Show is powered by volunteers of the creative conscious Midlands community – making costumes, transporting kids, cutting sandwiches, popping corn, judging, donating prizes. Financial support towards costs comes from Dargle Conservancy, Water Explorer, E’Yako Green, Mpophomeni Conservation Group and Midlands Meander Education Project.
Recycled, reusable, low waste prizes were sponsored by E’Yako Green, Consol, PinkCare, Meriel Mitchell, Mish Mash, The Green Needle, Afribag, Bear Neccessities, Steampunk Coffee, Rondavel Soap, Singakwenza.
Organiser Nikki Brighton mused afterwards “I’d really like to see more garments that can be actually worn at other occasions, not just fantasy fun. Imagine if trashion became the cool trend for matric dance dresses?”
Re-using rubbish may seem quaint now, but there is little doubt that with natural resources already over extracted, mining dumpsites will be the norm in future. Midlands youngsters are already set to make the most of discarded treasure. In the process they influence their families, neighbours and friends to view waste differently, demonstrating an understanding of the value and importance of reusing items whenever possible, taking responsibility for your choices.
We are not going to save the planet with Trashion Shows, however highlighting the fact that fast fashion is a major driver of social injustice and climate catastrophe, is important. Did you know that it takes 10 500L of water to make one pair of jeans and a new t-shirt creates 6kgs of CO2? We can no longer ignore the consequences of our plastic habit, which is devastating people and ecosystems in every corner of the globe – poisoning communities, clogging rivers, choking our oceans. When future generations look upon the plastic polluting our ecosystems they won’t ask why we didn’t recycle more, they will ask why products taking minutes to consume were produced in packaging that lasts for centuries. Most people at the Trashion Show signed the pledge to support Plastic Free July.
Of course, we all need to stop shopping, get rid of single-use plastic and make some big lifestyle changes, but we might as well have some trash-fash fun while spreading the message.
Read about previous Trashion Shows: