La Jolla has stores that provide offerings from some of fashion’s most iconic houses. But the residents of the nearby Belmont Village La Jolla senior-living community are creating something unlike anything you’ve seen with the La Jolla Legacy Project fashion house.
The residents are putting together custom outfits using donated clothing items to create their own fashion line and emphasize the importance of sustainability and upcycling — reusing something so it becomes more valuable than the original.
Residents from other participating Belmont Village locations across Southern California (Aliso Viejo, Rancho Palos Verdes, Cardiff by the Sea, Sabre Springs) are doing the same and will get together to showcase their creations on the runway of a fashion show in Aliso Viejo in Orange County on Friday, Sept. 8.
To prepare, Belmont Village La Jolla residents have held weekly fashion workshops in which they sketch, look at available materials, put together concept outfits and brainstorm ideas. Their theme is “From Old to New, Borrowed and Blue,” a take on the bridal adage that something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue be worn on one’s wedding day. Thus, some have contributed white and blue clothing and even a wedding dress.
“It’s amazing what residents have brought to the project,” said Belmont Village La Jolla enrichment leader Gianna Meaglia. “They have such storied pasts and such creative backgrounds from every corner of the world. So for them all to come together to share their perspectives and visions of what an outfit can look like, or what a belt can do, or how to repurpose a skirt, is amazing.”
Six to 10 looks will be created and tailored to each model based on taste and comfort level. The models also are residents.
“I hope everyone involved is able to stretch their artistic muscles, but most importantly, I think they are building a community and working together, which is so heartening,” Meaglia said.
Resident (and maybe model) Mornie Wolfson said she wanted to participate for her love of fashion and because “it is for a good cause.”
She especially loves hats, she said, motioning to a fedora she had just put on her head. “I used to go to the racetrack in New York and always had to have a special hat and a special suit,” she said.
Though Wolfson said she is “not very artistic,” she feels good about her participation.
“I love that we are all working together and everyone is having a good time,” she said. “I know this is going to be special and we are going to make the statement that we are great and fashion-oriented.”
She said there is excitement to walking the runway, but also some nerves. “If I don’t think about it, it will be fun,” she said with a laugh.
The clothes are intended to de-emphasize fast fashion — the practice of selling trendy, cheaply made clothing that often is discarded as the trend fades.
“Our initiative was to … educate our residents about fast fashion and how detrimental it is for the environment,” said Michelle Meyer, Belmont Village memory program director. “We opened our town hall and had residents donate clothes or swap, so everything we are working on has been donated.”
Though there was some initial reluctance among residents to participate, once they were aware of the sustainable nature of the project, they were more enthusiastic about it, Meyer said.
“The big question we got was why we were doing this,” she said. “So we spent time educating residents about fast fashion and the importance of thrifting. It was hard at first to get the residents motivated, but once they did, they got involved.”
Residents from every program at Belmont Village have found a way to get involved. The facility has floors for memory care, assisted living and independent living. Those on the more care-intensive floors who could not participate in the design components would cut fabric if needed or help in other ways.
Resident Genevieve McConnell said the project has shown participants that “no matter how old you are, you still have creative juices if you are not shy about sharing them with people.”
She added that she appreciates the upcycling associated with the project.
“It’s taking these clothes we have and making them more fun by changing them and making them exciting,” she said. “And [I like] knowing we are not polluting the planet and saving [the clothes] we love … and giving them a new life, that we can create these lovely things.”
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