Designer turns trash into high fashion.

By Joanna Douglas, Shine Staff
April 25, 2011

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Designer and environmental educator Nancy Judd creates wearable art out of recycled materials

Once an odd and unusual concept, in recent years, “recycled clothing”—that is, wearable garments made from unconventional materials—have become more and more mainstream . Most every season of the reality show “Project Runway” features a challenge where contestants use non-traditional items to create new sartorial designs, and more than a few young women have made duct tape prom dresses. We’ve even seen edible dresses made out of eggplants and bubblegum. That said, we love seeing people get creative with their fashion, especially when they re-purpose used materials and send a positive message about recycling.

Artist and environmental educator Nancy Judd, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, turned down a spot on “Project Runway” because she’s happy with her own project, Recycle Runway. She creates high fashion from what others may perceive as trash, all while teaching people about conservation.

“I love taking garbage—something that people want to push away from and not think about—and transform it into something elegant,” Judd recently told CNN. “I love when they look at a dress and say, ‘Wow, those are bottles or cans,’ or whatever.” While she says maybe designers are doing good things, she likes remaining an outsider. “I am an artist making wearable art,” she told CNN. “I’m also not attracted to the fashion industry. It creates a tremendous amount of waste, and there are a lot of social justice issues.”

Judds work has been displayed in malls, museums, and airports across the country, and her latest exhibit will be featured at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport this week. Don’t worry if you can’t make it—we’re highlighting the best pieces here. First up: The Glass Evening Gown. This stunning dress is made from 12,000 pieces of crushed glass! The Glass Packaging Institute commissioned this gown and the glass jars and bottles used came from the City of Albuquerque’s recycled program. The foundation for the garment was made of old upholstery.

Flip through the slideshow and head over to Recycle Runway for more on Judd’s creative designs.