On Ash Wednesday, when many New Orleanians were putting away their costumes, Joanna Daunie was embarking on a sewing project. She scoured the racks at Bridge House Thrift Store in Jefferson Parish and took home a leather jacket, lime green and purple scarves and a studded blouse to rip apart and reassemble.
“I’m going to paint the back of the leather jacket and cut the scarves up and sew a skyline design along the back of the light pink one,” said Daunie. “I kind of throw things together. It’s all about the hot glue gun.”
A Bridge House/Grace House committee member, Daunie will present her revamped jackets in the organization’s 9th annual Recycled Fashion Show on Sunday, Feb. 25 at Rock 'n' Bowl. The event is a fundraiser for Bridge House/Grace House, a residential drug treatment facility. Thirty-one designers will create outfits from repurposed Bridge House Thrift Shop finds — and those finds aren’t limited to clothing.
“We saw a vest made out of a bean bag chair and a skirt made out of a yoga mat,” said Stephanie Clare, senior development officer at Bridge House/Grace House. “We’ve had people take the pages out of romance novels and turn them into a wedding dress. They have no limits; it’s whatever they can create.”
After a runway show, designers sell their garments to the highest bidder in a silent auction that includes restaurant and vacation packages. Lauren “Fleurty Girl” Haydel and her husband, Ryan Haydel, emcee the event, and the Pussyfooters sell raffle tickets. All proceeds benefit Bridge House/Grace House.
Founded in 1957, Bridge House is a long-term residential substance abuse facility that offers treatment to men, regardless of their ability to pay. In 2006, Bridge House merged with Grace House, a women’s treatment facility, to offer gender-specific treatment. Bridge House/Grace House treats more than 800 people each year.
“When someone comes wanting help, we don’t ask for anything,” Clare said. “Having a way to pay isn’t a question. We’re going to get them a bed and work out the logistics later.”
Treatment is customized to the patients, who can stay in the program as long as they need to. Bridge House/Grace House also provides vocational rehabilitation and employment opportunities at its used car lot and thrift stores, which help fund the programs.
“This event highlights what our thrift stores have to offer, but it also ensures that we can continue to serve the community, and it raises awareness (of substance abuse and recovery),” Clare said.
Jeffery Carlson has been involved in the fashion show since 2010 as both a model and a committee member. “Since I’m a recovering alcoholic, it’s a cause I like to give back to,” Carlson said. “It’s a unique vibe, an interesting and good time. A lot of the costumes are pretty outlandish.”
Like Carlson, many of the designers have participated in the Recycled Fashion Show before. Each designer creates two outfits in one of three categories: couture, ready to wear and men’s fashion. Several mother-daughter teams will compete, and Daunie’s 12-year-old stepson will model her creation.
“I might have to drag him down the runway, but it will be fun,” Daunie said. “(This is) the only event in New Orleans that focuses going to the actual thrift store, which is huge and wonderful and has so much fun stuff in it — and it supports Bridge House/Grace House.”