Agence  France-Presse

Dumpster couture makes foray into Obamaworld

Nancy Judd at the Green Inaugural Ball

January 18, 2009
By Olivia Hampton

WASHINGTON (AFP) — It was the day after Barack Obama’s historic November 4 election win, when environmental artist and educator Nancy Judd went dumpster diving behind the Obama campaign headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico, desperate to collect any salvageable materials.

“I made a mad dash around town. In many cases, they had already started throwing things in dumpsters and I was pulling material out of dumpsters,” Judd told AFP.

“I started seeing posters and decals and I was finding drawings by children and all kinds of amazing materials that I felt like I just wanted to save … then it was just an obvious next step: since I make clothing out of trash, I am going to make a collection of garments and take it to the inauguration.”

Judd unveiled her “Campaign for Change Couture Collection” Saturday at the Green Inaugural Ball that drew about 1,000 environmentalists, an event among dozens in Washington honoring Obama’s inauguration.

The centerpiece was “Obamanos,” a 1950s vintage men’s coat adorned with countless 1.5-inch (4-centimeter)-long strips of Obama campaign door hangers that Judd said took 200 hours to make.

“I interpret it as we are Obama, we are this movement. It’s a tribute to the millions of people who worked for him,” she said.

Even Obama’s defeated opponent, John McCain, has his place on the coat — under the right armpit. Although the suit was tailored to fit Obama, wearing it would not be an easy affair.

“There’s a little bit of movement back and forth, but he can’t wave,” Judd explained.

At the ball, Judd wore an “Obama cocktail dress,” fashioned from campaign yard signs sewn in overlapping layers on a recycled sheet.

A model showed off the “Voter Swing Coat,” made from voter registration posters for New Mexico, a swing state, cut into strips and woven together into a paper fabric adhered to recycled canvas. A paper lace from punctured voter registration cards covered the coat’s collar and outer edges.

Crafting a single one of her handmade garments usually takes about six months to make, Judd said. But with the help of some 20 people in her studio, she wrapped up all three pieces in just two months.

She is also selling tote bags made from discarded yard signs to help finance her trip to Washington, where she will present her Obama-themed collection again on Monday at a reception for a New Mexico delegation and will organize workshops for local students.

Judd, 40, is no stranger to “trashion.” She first started making clothing out of discarded materials a decade ago and made her hobby into a business, Recycle Runway, two years ago.

Among her dumpster chic are a faux fur coat with thousands of loops of cassette and video tapes and an evening gown adorned with some 12,000 pieces of crushed glass — both of which took 400 hours to make.

“When you can engage people in a really positive way that is fun and playful and makes them smile and is creative, I feel like the message can be stronger than the doom and gloom, we’re all going to die kind of thing,” Judd said.

Judd’s hopes are also echoed in the energy and environmental policies of the incoming administration. Obama has called for an effort to overhaul US energy policy on the scale of the Apollo project that first landed a man on the Moon.

His plan includes unleashing 150 billion dollars over 10 years to create five million new “green” jobs, an 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and ensuring that 10 percent of US energy consumed comes from renewable sources by 2012 and 25 percent by 2025.

“This time must be different,” Obama said in December when referring to his environmental and energy policies.

“This will be a leading priority of my presidency and a defining test of our time. We cannot accept complacency, nor accept any more broken promises.”