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Jaiden Habersham confidently walked down the runway in a striking deep blue, full-body gown.
With the fabrics of her design rescued from a landfill and her hair and makeup styled by cosmetology student Cristina Nesheiwat, Habersham embodied the spirit of sustainability and collaboration that marked the Career and Technical Institute’s first Recycle Fashion Expo, held in the Dutchess BOCES Conference Center May 9.
Juniors and seniors from the fashion design and merchandising program at the Career and Technical Institute (CTI) each showcased up to six looks, along with posters showing their design process. Family, friends, staff and industry partners spoke with the designers about their work and congratulated them on their success. 
After discussions around the students’ displays, some designers took to the runway, allowing the audience a closer look as an announcer described the details and inspiration for the looks.
The event brought together contributions from students across CTI, who provided such services as catering and hair styling.
“I think the event is amazing,” said Sharon Williams, whose son, Ajani Dawkins, presented four looks. “These kids are incredibly talented, and the pieces look like something people would want to purchase in a store.”
Work-based learning coordinator Sharon Myers said students designs “used recycled materials to demonstrate sustainable practices and raise awareness for environmental issues.” She added, “This also highlights the creativity and innovation involved in repurposing materials to create stylish and unique fashion pieces.”

Fashion design and merchandising teacher Sebastian Yeung explained much of the fabric was donated by Fabscrap, a fabric and textile recycling nonprofit organization that students visited in October 2023.
“I prefer recycled fabrics. It’s a lot more rewarding to make something new out of something old,” said Isabelle Benassutti.

The Red Hook senior also spoke about her design process: “My ideas are sparked when I see the fabric. I drape it on the dress form and imagine what it could be. … As the process goes on, my idea evolves and sometimes I end up with something completely different.”
Dawkins, a senior from Rhinebeck, said the expo gave him a chance to express himself.
“I’m trying to spread positivity and creativity through my work. I want other people to know that they are capable of reaching their dreams,” he shared. For one of his four looks, Dawkins changed the fit of the pants with scraps of fabric. He finds that working with recycled materials makes him more resourceful in the design process.

Yeung said he wants students to understand the design and merchandising process from beginning to end. In addition to being mindful of sustainability, this includes learning to confidently communicate about your work with others, through events like the fashion expo.

Representatives from industry partners, such as Marist College, Hudson Valley Textile Project, Canvas and Clothier, Steve Madden and others, were present to support the budding designers.

Isis Bryant, a senior designer at Steve Madden, was asked to say a few words at the end of the event. Bryant turned toward the line of students and said, "Any one of you could be a designer."

Bryant became involved as Yeung was building the program a year ago.

"Sebastian reached out and told me about the program he was building and I thought it was cool." Since then, Bryant has arranged for students to tour one of the Steve Madden offices and donated accessories such as scarves and bags to the program.

She had this advice for the students: "Be curious! As designers you need fire and inspiration to create new pieces. You have to be curious about what is going on around you."

Students and staff from across CTI lent their unique talents to support the event. Graphic design students designed print materials, security and law students directed visitors, and culinary students made and served drinks, hors d'oeuvre and desserts. In addition, TV and film students produced a video detailing the designers’ processes, and cosmetology students did hair and makeup for the designers.

Cosmetology student Olivia Flory said working on the hair and makeup of students who aren’t in her class helps build confidence, and develops a feeling of community at CTI.

“We’re learning how to figure out what someone wants and how to execute it so they’ll really like the final result,” she said. “It’s fun to work together.”