This spring, A-DOT Productions is hosting a Peruvian-themed benefit, Inspiración del Perú, to raise money for Hoja Nueva, a nonprofit SEFS doctoral student Sam Zwicker cofounded to help local communities along the Las Piedras River in Peru develop more sustainable agricultural practices.
The benefit, coming up on Wednesday, May 11, from 2 to 10 p.m. at Metropolist in Seattle, will feature an eco-fashion show, “Runway to Peru;” a Peruvian marketplace; VIP cacao, chocolate and cocktail tasting hour; an auction of crafts, designs and artwork; and live music and performance art by local and international artists, all inspired by the colorful scenes of Peru.
All proceeds go directly to benefit Hoja Nueva, and each ticket will help protect at least five acres of rainforest and plant one cacao tree in the Piedras region of the Amazon, home to the largest unprotected rainforest in the world. In addition to the positive environmental impacts these donations will make—including protecting endangered wildlife habitat and combating global climate change—this event will support cacao trees that will produce fair-trade and organic ingredients for Seattle-based chocolate manufacturers. Proceeds will also support Hoja Nueva’s other projects involving sustainability, community development, wildlife conservation and reforestation.
Partners for the benefit include A-DOT Productions and Hoja Nueva, the Peruvian Consulate, AVEDA, National Geographic’s NOVICA, and the many artists participating in the runway show and performances.
Last spring, you might remember we introduced you to two enterprising freshmen, Ava Holmes and Olivia Moskowitz, who founded a student group, “Conservation in Style,” that focuses on eco-friendly fashion to raise awareness and funds for endangered species. In their first year here, the dynamic pair pulled off an impressive series of events, from an art exhibit to a conservation dinner, with the biggest splash being a Conservation Catwalk eco-fashion show held at the Husky Union Building last winter.
This year’s theme is “Elements of the Wild,” with a focus on environmentally and ethically sound attire inspired by wildlife and nature’s four elements. The show will merge “fashion forward” with “socially and environmentally responsible,” and the runway will be alive with animal-inspired designs and performances. Featured designs will come from a mix of local designers and past contestants on the television show Project Runway, and the host this year will be our own grad student Samantha Zwicker (who just won “Graduate Student of the Year” as the 2015 SEFS Recognition Event)!
Last year’s pilot event was hugely successful, drawing more than 1,000 students, faculty and community attendees, and Holmes and Moskowitz are excited to bring the wild to the runway once again.
Get your tickets today, and contact Conservation in Style for more information about the event. (If you go the VIP route, the VIP doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the package includes VIP styling, photoshoot with your “spirit animal,” private networking event, vegan hors d’oeuvres, front-row seating and eco-goodie bags.)
For many first-year students, freshman orientation can be an overwhelming experience. They’re confronted with so many new faces and personalities, so many different responsibilities and places to navigate, and on top of everything is the challenge of meeting and making new friends.
For Ava Holmes and Olivia Moskowitz, though, they cut right through all the haze. They weren’t even in the same orientation group this past summer, but they picked each other out of the crowds and instantly connected over a shared love of dancing, conservation and fashion. The latter two passions became the basis of a dynamic partnership, and the two even organized a new student group, “Conservation in Style,” which focuses on eco-friendly fashion to raise awareness and funds for endangered species.
Holmes, who grew up Ithaca, N.Y., was involved in fundraising for all sorts of environmental causes in high school, and during her sophomore year she specifically started working with The Gabby Wild Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes wildlife conservation through the intersection of science and art. Her dad is president of Primitive Pursuits, a wilderness school in Ithaca, and her mom has been involved in performance arts. “So it was my heritage to incorporate them both,” she says.
Outside of class, Holmes and Moskowitz quickly built up their ranks in “Conservation in Style.” They serve as co-presidents and already have more than 60 members, and they got The Gabby Wild Foundation to sponsor the group. The timing was perfect.
In 2012, Gabby Wild introduced the “12 in 12 for 12” campaign, which involved her wearing 12 animal-inspired outfits—one for every month of the year of 2012—to raise money and awareness for the conservation of 12 threatened species around the planet. Designers from the Lifetime TV show Project Runway designed the collection, and that successful collaboration helped kick off a broader commitment to pairing fashion with conservation. As a result, one of the foundation’s big promotions now is a cross-country series of eco-fashion shows, called “Conservation Catwalks,” that raise money and awareness for conservation issues.
Holmes and Moskowitz saw a tremendous opportunity to organize their own “Conservation Catwalk” on the UW campus this winter. To prepare for such a major undertaking, they collaborated closely with a number of other student organizations, including ASUW and the Student Health Consortium, in their production of the Everybody Every Body Fashion Show; they coordinated with different university departments, from business and marketing to drama and architecture; they recruited student models around campus; and they also engaged in a wide range of sponsor and partner outreach, including choosing which designers to work with and some of the styles to feature, and emailing with the CEOs of companies and Project Runway designers.
In the end, they managed to pull together $10,000 in raffle prizes and completely packed the Husky Union Building for the show on February 28—all, it’s worth remembering, in only their second quarter as undergrads. They directed all the proceeds through The Gabby Wild Foundation to support wildlife conservation efforts for specific endangered species, including African elephants. “We want to make sure our money is going to the best cause and is really directed to animal conservation,” says Moskowitz.
The concept behind the catwalk—showcasing environmentally responsible fashion—takes many forms. Most of the outfits on display were produced by local designers, and all were made from sustainable materials. Eco-fashion includes using only eco-friendly materials, such as organic hemp or cotton, sustainable silk or recycled items that would otherwise be wasted or thrown away. “We had one designer on the catwalk use soda pop tabs to make chainmail dresses,” says Moskowitz. “Some really unique things come from using sustainable materials.”
If can tabs aren’t your aesthetic, don’t worry. There are plenty of more wearable, everyday designs, including some beautiful dresses made from vintage tablecloths, says Holmes, not to mention some eye-grabbing leopard- and tiger-inspired dresses.
Whether through those designs or through the concept of the show, a big part of what motivates Holmes and Moskowitz is the chance to connect with people. They want to make conservation issues more accessible and personal, and really resonate with younger audiences. The catwalks are a perfect medium for that, because students get to see and wear high-fashion outfits and take part in a campus social event, all while raising visibility for critical conservation areas and extreme population decline in endangered species. “It’s a really fun way to make sustainability exciting,” says Holmes. “We encourage people think about where their fashion is coming from and how it affects the world.”
Some of the takeaways from the show are easy—like avoiding ivory products and fur, or new clothing whenever possible—and Holmes and Moskowitz are also trying to cultivate a deeper passion for conservation in as many people as they can reach. “I love getting people involved and getting people excited about a cause I’m passionate about,” says Moskowitz. “It’s really rewarding.”
It’s also a ton of work, but the hugely positive response to their first show made it all worth the effort. “It’s just really, really awesome when the event is over and everyone is saying, ‘I can’t wait for the next one,’” says Holmes.
They’re already mapping out the Conservation Catwalk for next year, in fact, and their calendar is hardly empty in the meantime. For the month of April—which they describe, without a hint of irony, as fairly “low-key”—they have an ongoing art exhibit at the Odegaard Library featuring the “12 in 12 for 12” collection and photos, and they had an exhibition on Earth Day. For May, they’re organizing a conservation dinner, an Animal Art Walk on May 22, and then at the end of the month The Gabby Wild Foundation is flying them to New York City for Elephantasia, the largest eco-fashion show at the Central Park Zoo to benefit African elephants.
One could reasonably ask, given their school and extracurricular obligations, how they have time for it all. “We don’t,” they’ll answer you, smiling, in unison. But somehow that hasn’t slowed them down or tamed their energy yet.
After all, these two classmates are forces of nature—or rather, forces for nature—and their mantra is pretty clear on this point: Stay Wild!
Photos courtesy of Ava Holmes and Olivia Moskowitz.