On October 29, the Circular Fashion Expo hosted its very first gallery event where hundreds of people were able to attend and admire art pieces curated by local artists. As you walked down the Siebel Center for Design's staircase, you noticed a corner displaying an array of colorful and vibrant art pieces. The visitors were able to look at pastel paintings, intriguing photos, and large scale sculptures. Each art piece had its own personal story that connected to the inner workings of the artists' mind.
According to its founder Josh Jay James, the Circular Fashion Expo (CFE) is "UIUC’s premiere fashion event that aims to create a thriving local circular economy for fashion by giving students the opportunity to buy, sell, and trade clothes and other goods. The event was created in response to the global water crises spawned by fast fashion corporations."
The founders of the Circular Fashion Expo, Josh Jay James, William Hohe, and Rebekah Phaiboun decided to create "a hybrid vendor/runway event that focused on circularity within fashion. Waste that is created by fashion design coupled with the trend cycling of the fashion world compounds into a drastic, deadly cycle of consumption that affects ecosystems around the globe. Fundamentally, the CFE is inspiration, allowing students to visually see models, both on and off the runway, living circularly and fashionably." Ultimately, the expo aims to incorporate its values: collaboration, creativity, circularity, and community, in each of the event's activities.
Photograph by Michael Chew
UIUC’s premier exposition for the new generation of fashion futurists
Photo by Francesca Dumitrescu
The Expo included a never ending stream of vendors, clothing swaps, runway looks, and an art exhibition. The exhibition itself displayed over 75 art pieces made by more than 30 local artists. Although each artwork had its own personal meaning, there were a lot of overlapping themes surrounding the pieces such as portraiture, surrealist collage work, and documentation of the human experience. William Hohe explains that "we included a gallery at the event as a way to speak on and spread the artistic perspectives of student artists at UIUC, beyond just the School of Art + Design. It only felt right to have an art gallery at CFE, with art having such a hold on the event’s focus in the runway already. The art gallery was a later idea that came to fruition through the contributions of many, many talented artists. The role it serves is to give a physical space for art in the event throughout the day and not just at the end."
Hohe hopes to host more gallery events for the upcoming Circular Fashion Expo next semester because not only does it give more artists exposure and a safe space to share their creativity with others, but it establishes a theme of circularity throughout the Expo. He states that artists are constantly "using materials, processes, people, and ideas in circularity and in this cycle is our promise with the entirety of the event." His vision for upcoming gallery events is to create an even bigger space where artists are able to display their artworks under one unifying theme, preferably one that aligns with the next CFE runway concept. William and Josh both plan to expand the Circular Fashion Expo to places beyond the Champaign Urbana area in hopes to spread their message about zero waste and circularity.
Photographs by Rawan El-Bawab, Anne Schmidt, and Michael Chew