EFE's 2019 Make-a-Thon Recap
As summer rolls around, and EFE takes a little break, we want to start reflecting on all of the amazing events of this year. The crowning jewel was our very first Make-a-Thon. If you were not around when we hosted this event, first of all welcome! And second of all, let me catch you up on what all of our participants and EFE accomplished with this event!
Our Mission This Year
Last year, EFE held a fashion show at Hunter College. We had about 10 designers from a few different CUNY colleges and over 100 attendees. It was so much fun, with a strong team behind the production, our amazing speaker Tara St James talking about sustainability, and models walking the runway in upcycled outfits made from thrifted clothes. Everyone left feeling it was a huge success. And it was!
But as a team, and this year as one that has stepped outside of Hunter to become a platform for students all across NYC, we pushed our mission one step further. We tilted the focus from producing a sustainable fashion show to collaboration amongst designers. We also knew that, after the show, many of these designs stayed inside closets and never saw the light of day again. We wanted to empower our designers to create ethical pieces that they would also wear, and give them skills to take home.
Cue the birth of the Make-a-Thon!
After tireless planning and social media blasts, GoFundMe campaigns and personal messages to our community, EFE hosted the Make-a-Thon on April 13th, 2019.
It was a 12-hour creative sprint, from upcycling to showcasing. Our tagline was,“Where Project Runway meets Hackathon.” And we are so grateful for the partners and sponsors who truly elevated the MAT to be what it was.
Planning the Make-a-Thon
So how exactly does a Make-a-Thon work? Well good question! When we first started, we also had no idea! But we brainstormed together for hours and hours on what our designers would need and how our end goal could be accomplished. First, we wanted to have a mix of experienced and inexperienced designers that could learn from each other. Second, we wanted to appeal to every design level in terms of what we offered. Third, we wanted to make sure we pumped up the morale so we would not have a slump of activity. So our day had four main parts: design-thinking, workshops, upcycling, and the showcase.
Starting with Design-Thinking
First, students from DSI, or the Design for Social Innovation graduate school, presented the most effective methods of design thinking. Design thinking is a creative approach to problem solving that is human-centric. Our prompt for our upcyclers’ designs was to imagine how a typical New Yorker would look. Obviously that answer is different for everyone but our teams had to solidify a shared vision. Our design-thinking experts explained how to keep the customer in mind, what questions our teams should be asking, and how the design-thinking process works step by step.
Tara Maurice from DSI also stayed for the entire day to help. Thank you Tara!
An Hour of Sustainable Workshops
After design-thinking we hosted workshops! There were a few reasons for this: one, it would break up the day into more manageable parts than just upcycling the entire time, and two, our upcyclers could come away with new skills in sustainable fashion that they could use beyond the one day. We had three different workshops: embroidery with EFE team member Gilda, natural dyes with Susanna Taylor, founder of Earthen Warrior, and sewing denim baskets with Linnae Hamilton from Remade in Brooklyn . That last one was targeted towards beginners, as Linnae showed them step-by-step how to use a sewing machine for their designs. So along with their upcycled designs, our upcyclers left with another sustainable product they could use at home!
Food, Food, and More Food!
Speaking of morale earlier, what could be a better boost to your mood than food? We had vegan donuts and bagels in the morning, poke in the afternoon, and vegan pizza at night. We also had all vegan snacks throughout the day like chips and fruits to keep our upcyclers going! Thanks to all of our food sponsors for donating to us!
Let's Get Down to Business
The longest part of our day was upcycling. Our designers split into teams, brainstormed, and sewed together for five hours. EFE team members, as well as Tara and Linnae, helped out with sewing. Each of our teams received a mystery bundle of old clothes, most of which could not be worn as is anymore, wrapped in fabric from FABSCRAP. There was also a table of scraps and other hardware they could take from. Thank you to FABSCRAP for the 15 pounds of fabric they donated to this event and to everyone else who contributed clothing. Our upcyclers had to keep in mind a few criteria. First, of course, was sustainability, and making sure to leave as little waste as possible. Second was creativity, which is hard to quantify but for us was seeing how much the beginning materials had transformed by the end. Third was design consciousness, or how much they incorporated the needs of the consumer. And finally, collaboration, which was how the unity of the outfit showed the collaboration of the team!
The Grand Finale
Finally we opened the doors to the public for our showcase! Our attendees came in and mingled, our judges settled into their seats, and our upcyclers practiced their pitches. The showcase began with an introduction by Sophia, our emcee and director of budgeting and finance. Angela and Janette, our cofounders, also traced our journey these past few years. We also played a video that had been made by me and Fanny, our director of social media, that day! It gave our attendees insight into what kind of work actually went into creating these designs. Watch it below!
Then the showcase began! Each team had one of their members walk their design down a mini-runway! Then they had to speak about what they started with, their vision of a typical New Yorker, and how they upcycled their clothes. They also had to show their scraps, or how much waste they produced. Then our judges would give them feedback. We had an amazing panel of judges: Margo Isadora, a fashion and print designer, DeVonne Jackson, the founder of the sustainable fashion blog Positive Obsession, and our very own Malka Hershkop, our director of team building! They commented on not only the style and meaning behind the designs, but also the sustainable aspects and how they could improve in their process. Overall, our upcyclers produced an amazing end product, learned new skills, and worked with others in the community looking to sustainably design.
EFE will host more events like this in the future! This was definitely an experiment for us, but one that we thoroughly enjoyed creating and want to expand on in the future. We are continuing to evolve our role in this movement to reduce textile waste and offer alternatives to the fast fashion industry. The results of the first Make-a-Thon have left us awed yet proud of what we can all accomplish together. Let us know what kinds of events you want to see EFE host next! We will continue working with you so we can all have a lasting, positive impact.