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Sac State students and alumni design sustainable clothes for Fashion Week Sacramento

Sacramento State Fashion Merchandising & Marketing students and alumni Hyori Lee (front row, second from left ), Rachel Zacapa (front row, kneeling), Oscar Perez (back row, left) and Kayle Kirkaldie (back row, second from left) pose with the models who wore their SalvagedRow line of eco-friendly, sustainable clothes for the 2024 Fashion Week Sacramento held at the California State Railroad Museum on Feb. 24. (Sacramento State/Jennifer K. Morita)

Transforming old fabric and secondhand clothes into wearable art, four emerging designers from Sacramento State watched their creations strut past locomotives and train cars at the California State Railroad Museum on Feb. 24.

A student models Fashion Week Sacramento clothing.
A model wears clothing made by Sac State students and alumni, who were featured as "Emerging Designers" at the 2024 Fashion Week Sacramento. (Sacramento State/Jennifer K. Morita)

The four Hornets were highlighted as “Emerging Designers” at Fashion Week Sacramento, the city’s premier fashion showcase. Alongside six area designers, the event featured SalvagedRow, an up-and-coming line created entirely by students and alumni from Sac State’s Fashion Merchandising & Marketing Department.

The showcase provided the designers with valuable professional experience as well as the opportunity to put the ideas and values from their Sac State classes into action.

“This was my second show ever, and it was a bigger deal because it was Sacramento Fashion Week,” SalvagedRow designer and Sac State senior Hyori Lee said. “It was a lot more exciting and definitely made me realize this is what I want to do. The whole experience was a push and inspiration.”

The team also included senior Kayley Kirkaldie and alumni Rachel Zacapa and Oscar Perez. They spent the last few months designing and sewing their own, individual pieces for a line that would look cohesive on the runway.

Because all four share an interest in sustainable fashion, they chose to emphasize “upcycled” clothing made with reused fabric and secondhand clothes. Kirkaldie, for example, made one of her pieces from lace she found in a thrift store and old fabric from her family.

“We’re losing so many species, particularly butterflies, insects and other animals, to extinction because we’re taking away their environments through our pollution,” Kirkaldie said.

Zacapa added that the team’s inspiration to promote sustainability comes from their Sac State fashion courses.

“Every class touches on it,” she said. “They give you the bigger picture of how much goes into creating just one garment, from dying fabrics to production and how much waste happens in that process.

“So, it’s really important for us to extend the life of fabrics, whether they’re bedsheets or secondhand clothes.”

Sac State has played a role in Fashion Week Sacramento since the event began as a small mixer in 2005.

“When I first got here, everyone we were connecting with were students from fashion programs at different schools in the area, but a majority of them were from Sac State,” said producer Duane Ram of DMR productions.

Students volunteered to work at events and served as production interns. Ram even got involved with the fashion club on campus and helped with University shows.

In 2010, when Ram wanted to add the Emerging Designers showcase, he included Sac State students.

“The cherry on the cake is the showcase. That’s where all the fun happens, and everyone wants to be involved in that,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, and it’s not all glamorous. … But they get the experience of how to actually put a show together and learn how to connect with people.”

Fashion Week Sacramento, which is in the process of being rebranded to Fashion in the City, has since grown to a weeklong series of events featuring as many as 20 designers. It is also a fundraiser for the L for Lupus Community Foundation.

The event highlights area designers as well as stylists, hair salons, makeup artists and everyone else it takes to produce a fashion show.

Students model Fashion Week Sacramento clothing.
The Sac State students and alumni featured in Fashion Week Sacramento focused on creating clothing that was eco-friendly and sustainable. (Sacramento State/Jennifer K. Morita)

“We’re doing it because we love the city and we want to help all the artists and showcase their talents,” Ram said.

Fashion Week Sacramento hadn’t been held since February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit California. Then, in spring of 2023, Zacapa heard that DMR Productions was planning to relaunch the event.

“I thought, why not pull our talents to collaborate and try for a spot in the 2024 Fashion Week,” Zacapa said.” “We applied and got selected to be the emerging designers for the show.”

The week before the event was a blur of fittings and rehearsals. The designers also had to learn how to adjust to last minute changes, such as a switch in the order of models walking the show.

“And you just had to roll with it,” Zacapa said. “It was chaotic. … For many of us, this was our first major show outside of Sac State. So, a lot of things were firsts for us.”

Fashion Week marked the first fashion show for Perez, who graduated last year and recently finished an apprenticeship with B:SR Brand, a high-end fashion label in Sacramento.

“I was really overwhelmed. … I felt a lot of pride, but it was chaotic as well,” Perez said after the show, adding that he was thankful to the more experienced Lee and Zacapa for their guidance.

“I always feel like I’m going to have to do this alone without anyone to help me, but I’m forever grateful I have my colleagues and the fashion professors to really help me put myself out there.”

Leading up to the event, Kirkaldie said she was nervous but excited to learn how a fashion show actually works.

“I’ve never seen one in person before, and I’ve never been part of one,” she said. “I thought it would be a good idea to do this so I could put it on my résumé.

“It’s great for Sac State because we’re opening more doors and opportunities for students to be able to do things like this.”

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About Jennifer K. Morita

Jennifer K. Morita joined Sacramento State in 2022. A former newspaper reporter for the Sacramento Bee, she spent several years juggling freelance writing with being a mom. When she isn’t chauffeuring her two daughters, she enjoys reading mysteries, experimenting with recipes, and Zumba.

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