Lonnie Hanzon’s trash fashion show will kick off Denver’s 2018 PrideFest

The dresses and suits are composed cardboard and plastic, old rope light, newspaper packaging, water bottles and horse feed bags. And yet, they look like normal, highly processed items of the fashion world.
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Fashion materials ready to become clothing. Lonnie Hanzon’s Lakewood studio, May 29, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) lakewood; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; sustainability; fashion; pridefest; pride; lgbtq; art;

Model Jasiah Paris sports a dress made from Red Bull cans after she's been fitted in Lonnie Hanzon's Lakewood studio, May 29, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The 2018 Denver PrideFest is kicking off with new vigor this year. A week before the annual celebration takes over Civic Center Park, The Center and local artist Lonnie Hanzon will hold their biggest kickoff yet: a fashion show of looks made completely with recycled items.

"We have not purchased one material," Hanzon said. The dresses and suits he and his team have created are composed of cardboard and plastic, old rope light, newspaper packaging, water bottles and horse feed bags. And yet they look like normal, highly processed items of the fashion world.

"What did we use to make this?" he asked assistant Craig Mortensen as he inspected one piece resembling Roman armor. The fact that even he couldn't tell what his pieces are made of is testament to their transformation from trash to treasure.

Joselyn Segura (left to right), Jasiah Paris and Nicole Wojtkiewicz pose after being fitted into their dresses made from recycled materials. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Hanzon has been the artist behind PrideFest's art installations for the last three years. His large, conceptual centerpieces at Civic Center Park always reference political issues contemporary to the queer community each year.

His first was a giant wedding cake, then a blank slate for people to express themselves after the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Last year was a "Shrine to Humanity” meant to show his community isn’t godless. This year’s installation is a series of open doors that is Hanzon’s reaction to the Masterpiece Cakeshop case expected to be decided soon by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A model of Lonnie Hanzon's installation for 2018 PrideFest at Civic Center park. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

This trash show, too, is meant to make us think, but it’s a departure from the LGBTQ focus of Hanzon's other PrideFest works. Instead, he hopes to draw attention to waste and garbage, particularly from the “fast fashion” world that’s taken over the malls of America.

“Slow fashion” used to be the norm. It was that "really nice shirt you got 20 years ago and you’re still wearing it,” he said. What’s hip today is "poorly made and doesn’t last, and becomes landfill very quickly.”

Lonnie Hanzon fits Gloria Schoch into a dress in his Lakewood studio. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

An article in the journal Nature Climate Change estimated that almost 60 percent of all clothing is disposed of within a year of purchase. That’s in addition to garments that are left unpurchased and tossed at the end of a season. Last year, a Danish investigative TV show reported that H&M incinerated more that 65 tons of unworn, unsold garments since 2013.

Beyond garments, Denver's own landfills have swelled with our population boom. Colorado as a whole has produced more than 20 cubic yards of garbage every year since 1999. The way it's processed and stabilized means it will outlive us all.

This fits neatly into Hanzon's body of work. Found objects have become a staple of his process in the last few years, and he's been collecting would-be-junk at his home forever. His backyard is more or less a cathedral of reuse, which he mined last year to construct His Shrine to Humanity.

Lonnie Hanzon's "Equality Cake" from 2015 under sheets behind home studio in Lakewood, May 31, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

But he said his focus around this fashion show has made him even more aware of everything he tosses out, and he's more or less stopped contributing anything to the dump.

Instead, he says to himself: "Ok. Can I make something out of this?"

The answer is, probably, yep.

The 2018 PrideFest kickoff fashion show will be at the Exdo Event Center on June 9th, 6-9 p.m.

Model Ken Mueller shows off his suit made from an old beach chair. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Model Nicole Wojtkiewicz (right) wears a dress made from old Godiva Chocolate packaging. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
A garment made of reused plastic meant to look like Roman armor. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Production assistant Craig Mortenson weaves plastic into a Carmen Miranda-esque headpiece. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Rex fuller, director of communications for The Center, checks out recycled garments in Lonnie Hanzon's Lakewood studio. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Model Grey Crouch is fitted into a dress made with recycled materials. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Fashion materials ready to become clothing. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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