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Missouri S&T holds a fashion show with clothes made of trash to boost student creativity

ROLLA — Missouri University of Science and Technology is looking to make creativity as much a part of its campus culture as the science and math it's known for.

The first project in an effort to achieve that goal took place this week, and it combined fashion and garbage.

The Trashion Show put together teams of students from different majors to create an outfit out of garbage and recycled materials. The concept isn’t new, but it’s unusual to have such a competition at a school known for engineering that doesn’t have a major or even classes in fashion design.

“You simply can’t have innovation if you don’t have creativity,” said Karen Head, the school’s first Arts & Innovation director. Her charge is to combine the work of artists, scientists and technologists at S&T to solve complex problems.

“I think asking students to mix up the way that they think about the work that they do, and to think more creatively, was really at the basis of this show.”

Bringing together people from different majors and having them take on a difficult task that requires a lot of creativity is the point of the Trashion Show, Head said.

Senior chemistry major Samantha Buchanan and senior business and management systems major Alex Gubera were part of a team that made a business suit out of discarded items from career fairs on campus.

Samantha Buchanan laughs while attempting to staple a blazer swathed with ripped paper.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Samantha Buchanan, a senior chemistry major from Wildwood, adjusts a blazer alongside teammate Alex Gubera, a senior business and management systems major from Wentzville, on Tuesday at the Missouri S&T campus in Rolla.

“The whole shirt is made from nametags from this past career fair, like two weeks ago. And the skirt is made out of maps from the fair two years ago,” Gubera said.

Their outfit, which came in second in the competition and won the team $250, was a good learning experience, they said.

“I would say we got a lesson that sometimes you have to use what you’re given, because you’re not always given what you all need. You’re not always given 100% of the pieces, so figure it out from there,” Buchanan said.

The Trashion Show may be a fun side project, but the intent is to bake this idea into the curriculum to make sure the technological minds on campus also have vision.

Mary Reidmeyer, a professor emeritus in materials engineering, was a model at the show, wearing a jumper made of shipping bag materials covered with used scrap glass formed into circles.

Reidmeyer said S&T students are artistic at heart and that needs to be encouraged.

Damien Calhouen, a freshman English and technical communications major from Kirksville, Mo., and Elaine Pohlsander, a sophomore English major from Washington D.C.,embrace after winning the Missouri S&T’s first annual “Trashion Show” on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, on the campus’ Havener Center in Rolla, Mo.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Damien Calhouen, a freshman English major from Kirksville, and Elaine Pohlsander, a sophomore English major from Washington, D.C., embrace after winning the Missouri S&T’s first Trashion Show on Tuesday in Rolla.

“Most students, if you look when they came out of high school, were creative. They took art classes, band classes. They come here, and there is a very big focus on science and engineering, but there is still that creative side that is waiting to be let back out again,” Reidmeyer said.

After the show, in which models used the staircase in the atrium of the Havener Center as a runway, judges made their decisions.

The winner of the $500 first prize went to a team that came up with a gender-neutral design without any green in it to reflect concerns about climate change — a wrap style toga with faux fur and a big belt.

Sophomore English technical communication major Elaine Pohlsander, one of
the designers of the winning outfit, said it was a great event that gave her an opportunity to create something that never would have happened in a classroom.

“We got to make something that matters to us. We care about the climate crisis, we care about gender equality. These are all things that matter to us. So we made something that had to do with that and share that with the school,” Pohlsander said.

Damien Calhoun, a member of the winning team and the model for their look, said:

“It was just fun to work with everybody. I don’t really interact with people outside my major. It just brought a different aspect of collaborativity that you normally wouldn’t see.”

The winning designs from the show will be on display at the S&T Library.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

Jonathan Ahl is the Newscast Editor and Rolla correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.