Blue Sparrow Coffee Partners with Local Couture Designer to Inspire Sustainability

Photo by Connor Nich

Blue Sparrow Coffee appreciates trash and experiments with it in ways others won’t even consider. Last year, the team sifted through used, discarded waste fitted in bright blue gloves and captured it through beautiful photography. The question is, why? For the second year in a row, Blue Sparrow has released its sustainability report for 2022 in honor of Earth Day on April 22. This local coffee shop hangs a spotlight on sustainability and highlights its own failures and successes—a transparent way to show others how to make tiny steps towards a more green lifestyle. To announce the report, the team did something entirely out of the ordinary. 

Trash and fashion are rarely partners; even the crafts of coffee and style are on two ends of the spectrum. But Blue Sparrow saw this comparison differently. “We focused so much on our trash last year that we were like, how do we continue to tell this story but shift the narrative a little bit,” said Sara Van Hatten, sustainability analyst for Mainspring and Blue Sparrow. “I was like, what if we took it and placed it in a way that looked like the trash itself was a high fashion model.” And this is precisely what they did. 

Local designer Alejandro Gaeta partnered with Blue Sparrow Coffee to create a couture gown made entirely out of recycled Blue Sparrow Coffee cups. “We talked to him, and he was immediately interested. From there, it honestly moved super fast because we were really excited to tell this Cinderella Story, from rags to riches,” said Van Hatten. 

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They then pulled cups from the trash after work at both Blue Sparrow locations to have the materials ready in time. The project was put together in three weeks, and the dress was constructed within days, made out of all parts of the coffee cup. Van Hatten hopes the dress will “open up conversations about sustainability.” 

I cut the cup at the line where it’s glued so it unraveled perfectly and ripped the bottom base of the cup off by hand,” Gaeta said. The fabric inside the dress was sourced from local, sustainable materials and finished with a zipper back. Gaeta drew inspiration from elevated couture, but it wasn’t until he sat down with the team at Blue Sparrow and saw the material that he knew what he wanted to do. The goal was to make people say, “There’s no way that’s trash.” 

“This was really cool to experience because I know I can do it now,” said Gaeta. 

The dress’s color came from mixing coffee grounds and matcha in water, then adding Elmer’s glue to ensure it stuck to the dress. Gaeta said he meant it to look like the person ‘wearing’ the dress fell and got a grass stain. “I want to inspire other creatives. Anything can be fashionable; it just comes down to how creative and imaginative you are,” Gaeta said. “I would love for people to understand fashion is a form of self-expression, and it can be what you want it to be.” The team wanted to keep all efforts within the Blue Sparrow family, so the gown was custom-made to fit model and barista, Akaisha Randle. It makes it more meaningful to work with people who have the same vision as you,” said Gaeta. 

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Continuing to keep it in the family, photographer and barista Connor Nich was the cameraman behind the inspiring photos of Gaeta’s dress. Nich got his start while living in New York, photographing for Wilhelmina NY, and later Wilhelmina LA. He anticipates this campaign will encourage people to take sustainability more seriously and, in turn, be more cognizant of their choices. One hope is that it will enable customers to bring in their own reusable coffee cups. “It’s a conversation starter when people bring their own cups,” Nich said. This is one simple, easy way to make a green impact in the coffee world.

Blue Sparrow will continue to share their sustainability story for years to come while keeping us on our toes with its exciting efforts. “Our hope with this whole campaign is really just to get people to take a look at some of the sustainability reporting that we’ve done and to become more intentional about it,” Van Hatten finished. Next time you visit Blue Sparrow, we urge you to be more aware of the trash you expend and how you can help build a more sustainable future. And remember, when in doubt, toss it out. 

Designer: Alejandro Gaeta

Model/Barista: Akaisha Randle

Photographer/Barista: Connor Nich

Creative Direction: Phil Hua-Pham and Sara Van Hatten

Makeup Artist: Eric Quintana


Blue Sparrow Coffee is located at 3070 Blake St., Unit 180, Denver and 1615 Platte St., Suite 135, Denver. It is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. 

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