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Showing Her Style

You would expect to find such items as plastic cups, tablecloths, and paper plates at a picnic, but as materials for clothing?

According to senior Crystal Cochell, yes.

Crystal Cochell models one of her recycled material dresses during the Multicultural Student Association's annual Fashion Show. (Photo by Hung Do Le '12)

For her senior art project, the Trumansburg resident created a series of five dresses made from mostly recycled materials including the picnic fare, black and white garbage bags, cardboard, cellophane, velvet, feathers, ribbon, and pipe cleaners.

“I chose these materials to express my anger toward corporations that are wasteful and careless of the environment,” said Cochell, a visual/verbal art major. “The common color through my designs is red, which I believe is an angry color. I wanted to convey that corporations can recycle, just like individuals.”

The inspiration to use recycled materials as clothing came from a variety of sources.

“I have always been interested in fashion and I was doing some research online when I stumbled upon Alexander McQueen (a British fashion designer),” said Cochell. “I loved his designs, and became inspired by him, so I decided to make clothing for my senior project.”

In addition, her roommate asked Cochell to create a skirt for her. Cochell said she would, but in exchange, the roommate would have to wear it in the Multicultural Student Association’s annual fashion show. Cochell, her roommate, and other models wore the dresses in a segment of the show, titled Recycled.

One of Cochell's dresses, made from cardboard and white garbage bags, is modeled during the fashion show. (Photo by Hung Do Le '12).

“I liked the idea of garbage bags as material because they bend easily,” said Cochell, whose recycled material dresses are part of the student art show currently on display in Lightner Library. “The sewing was hard because it caused the bags to tear, but I loved working with them.”

Cochell confesses to being an artist at heart and had thought she might become an art teacher, “which could be a bit more stable in this economy, rather than working on commission. But I would have taken only one art class per semester, and that wasn’t enough for me. If I didn’t do art, I think I’d go crazy.”

So, Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art, encouraged Cochell to switch her major to visual/verbal art and “I am so glad I did. I love working in the fine arts, though I would like to learn more computer-based programs like Photoshop,” said Cochell.

Maybe she could take Photoshop lessons from her grandmother. According to Cochell, her grandmother—a photographer—”jumped on board”’ with Photoshop when it debuted in 1988.

One of Cochell’s dresses, made from red plastic cups, is modeled during the fashion show. (Photo by Hung Do Le '12).

“Art and creativity is in my genes,” said Cochell. “My mom is a writer and is supportive of me. My dad is a cartoonist, writes music, and plays guitar. I had considered becoming a cartoonist, but not many people get my morbid sense of humor. Also, the inspiration to write a poem or story only happens once in a blue moon.”

After graduation, Cochell intends to travel to Seattle, home to major apparel brands such as Tommy Bahama, Eddie Bauer, ExOfficio, Filson, Shah Safari, Beyond Threads, and Nordstrom. She will work for Fashion Incubator, a company that helps people start their own clothing line.

Said Cochell: “I would like to become a fashion designer, so I will learn from [the people at Fashion Incubator] and then decide if that is what I want to do with my life.”

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