The Denver fashion community gathered at Void Studios on Saturday, July 9 to celebrate the art of upcycling. Rachel Hazelwood, Earthy Emi, Scarlett Begonia’s Vintage and Jake Perez (Versace Boy) took the runway with upcycled collections, giving fashion design new meaning.
Upcycling is the act of taking an already existing garment or accessory to create something entirely new. Using alternative fabrics or materials, upcycling can bring life to what may be considered an old or out-of-style piece. As a result, upcycled fashion is a sustainable initiative to revamp looks rather than using resources to create something new.
Designers reimagined runway fashion during the second upcycling challenge. Void Studios chose designers based on a social media challenge leading up to the show. To be considered, local stylists and designers were encouraged to share an Instagram story detailing their concept along with before and after photos of an upcycled design. Chosen designers were given a $150 budget to create eight looks.
Each designer elevated thrifted or recycled pieces with cohesive collections that redefined the meaning of design in Denver, a city that some may consider a sustainable hub for fashion. Alongside runway coordinator Kim Rayfield, this show was one for the books.
The show began with a collection from Rachel Hazelwood filled with colorful hues that screamed 80s prom. Satin and silk dresses were paired with elaborate jewelry and accessories. This gender-neutral collection also featured shirtless models wearing open blazers adorned with fringe, beads and more. The looks were straight from a fairytale, with one model wearing a white floor-length gown resembling a snow queen.
Earthy Emi took the runway next with a bold collection filled with neutral businesswear upcycled to create sexy silhouettes and unique matching sets. From detailed patchwork on jackets to cropped blazers, this collection stunned the crowd. Designer Emi Zerr’s upcycled vision is wearable yet unique, paving the way for upcycled fashion to make a statement. With abstract makeup by Katie Narum and Kaylee Kinman of Duality Studio Works, the hair and makeup artists for the event, this collection was modern yet sophisticated. Zerr even featured a look where the model wore pants as a blazer, showcasing both high fashion and creativity.
The Upcycling 2.0 Challenge kicked off with soft music and a low-energy crowd. However, an intermission brought excitement to Void Studios with a performance from model and musician Julian Navarro. After walking into Hazelwood’s segment, Navarro took the stage to perform several numbers. While he sang, he played the piano and drums in addition to DJing for the audience. Navarro’s multi-faceted creative spirit is an inspiration for models and musicians alike in Denver and his performance certainly uplifted the crowd at Void Studios, leading to an energy-filled runway show following intermission.
Coming off of Navarro’s captivating performance, designer Scarlett Callahan of Scarlett Begonia’s Vintage took the runway with a stunning collection defined by floral accents. The segment began with a video showcasing flower fields and the models took the runway wearing everyday white garments with a twist. Each look featured garments hand-dyed with flower petals and elaborate hair and makeup designs. The looks were both elegant and romantic, providing a unique spin on upcycled fashion. In the final runway walk, each model gifted a flower to a member of the audience, offering a nice touch for attendees to feel a part of the collection.
Jake Perez, also known as Versace Boy, took the runway for the final collection of the night. This high-energy segment featured colorful furs, striking gold and silver chains and sexy styles. As a result, Perez brought luxury fashion to a Denver runway. Perez attends almost every fashion show in Denver and is always dressed to the nines in luxury brands like Gucci, Versace and more. His high-end designer collection is extensive, and from head to toe, he is constantly adorned with boujee clothing and accessories. His runway collection took boujee to another level with remnants of luxurious fashion houses and their runway collections in fashion capitals like LA and New York. These upcycled looks brought the vision of luxury fashion to a Denver stage and left audience members yearning for more with a standing ovation from the crowd due to the extreme attention to detail that went into creating each look.
Denver’s focus on sustainability in all industries continues to expand and fashion is at the forefront with an increase in events like Void Studio’s second upcycling challenge. It is clear that the fashion community will continue to work diligently to prioritize sustainable fashion and celebrate the essence of upcycling through runway shows like this one.
All photography by Paul Abulu.
Editor’s Note: Updated on July 13 to clarify Scarlett Begonia Vintage’s process.