Treasures raised from SF trash
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A pile of discarded water bottles, Dockers, Chinese robes and worn briefcases is a common sight at The Help Desk, a donation center in the Tenderloin. Less frequent is the sight of models strutting down a runway, wearing the same items transformed into haute couture.

In its fourth year, the "Discarded to Divine" fashion event, which was held on May 7th, aims to auction off clothing and accessories made from recycled pieces of clothing for people most in need of new outfits and support. The organizers of the event, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, helped fund the largest homeless shelter in Northern California and some of the largest shelters for battered women in the San Francisco, which help more than 75,000 people each year.

Honorary chairperson of the event, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, expressed her strong feelings about helping the homeless people of San Francisco in as many diverse ways as people can imagine.

"We all know the problems of the homeless are so complex and 'Discarded to Divine' is one great example of finding a solution," said Newsom.

While many of the designers were recruited from local campuses of the Institute for Fashion Design and Merchandising and the Art Institute of San Francisco, there were a few exceptions, including a handful of pre-teens, an SF State fashion major and a former contestant on Bravo's hit TV series, Project Runway.

SF State fashion student Diana Wong's Yves Saint Laurent inspired design almost didn't make it to the "Discarded to Divine" fashion show.

"I got sick during Christmas break and the deadline passed," said 24-year-old Wong. "But I felt it was something I had to do when they gave me the extension."

About two years ago, Wong couldn't sew a stitch, and had no idea that she would be finishing her Master's on womens' business fashion only 24 months later. But the wedding dress dilemma of a close family friend changed the course of her life. With a small sewing machine and a week before the big date, Wong sewed the wedding dress of someone she considered a second-mother and carved the path that would lead her to creating her own business wear line and a piece shown in one of the most unique fashion events in San Francisco.

"I loved the whole idea of the cause and I am just excited that they picked my piece. Now I have to finish my own line to complete my field study."

Wong was the only entrant from SF State's fashion department.

More than 100 pieces were displayed for the silent and live auctions for the 900 attendees to bid on for the charity. Some pieces were exhibited on mannequin forms while others were flaunted on live models who mingled with the crowd.

"I thought it was such a nice touch to see the items that would be in the live auction on the models," said Naomi Jasper, a 32-year-old San Franciscan looking for a one-of-a-kind dress to bid on. "Some of these styles are so unique and I hope one of the ones I like is in my size."

There was a considerable variety of styles and sizes and these unique fashion ensembles varied from children's size 3 to women's size 28. Particular live auction items, such as the Ode to Spring shoes that were transformed from dull black heels to stark white boots with silk ribbon and flower embellishments, were a whimsical take on spring accessories and bagged a top bid of $250.

Another hit at the live auction was flowing coral dress with seventies inspired eggplant and black asymmetrical sleeves by designer Louisa Parris, which was snagged for $600.

Sweet P., one of the more established designers who made her mark on TV's Project Runway, auctioned off a feminine red cocktail dress made from a Chinese-style robe for $470.

"The director, (Sally Rosen) contacted me about the event and I just fell in love with the recycled fashion concept," said Los Angeles designer Sweet P. "I am glad I was able to bring in some money for this worthy cause."

The event raised $90,000 dollars for the St. Vincent de Paul Society but as Sally Rosen said, "'Discarded to Divine' isn't just one event, it is a journey."







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