Students are sew into activism

For two young seamstresses, fashion equals social progress.

  • Monday, June 9, 2008 4:50pm
  • News

Hilary Grant (left) hems a polka-dot creation in preparation for this weekend's benefit fashion show. Grant and fellow Bainbridge High School senior Mel Trygg organized the show to benefit Afghani women.

For two young seamstresses, fashion equals social progress.

When Hillary Grant and Melanie Trygg met during seventh grade softball, they never imagined that fashion design and activism would one day bind them so closely.

Now they’d like to make a very clear point.

“Our generation is not apathetic,” Grant said. “We can combine passions and reality so that they really mesh – doing something you really love to make a difference.”

During their sophomore year, the two budding seamstresses attended the same fashion workshop at West Sound Academy, helmed by a professional designer who inspired with the idea that sewing could constitute an act of global sustainability. One could on many levels, as Grant puts it, “make something out of nothing.”

Bolstered by the notion that wielding needle and thread could lead to political progress, the two last year attended Seattle’s Green Fashion Week and then signed up for a senior year elective in political action.

The class, which required every student to develop a results-oriented project to effect change in the world, was right up the young women’s alley.

“Both of us are very conscious and aware of what’s going on in the world and wanted to do something,” Grant said. “And then it was like, sweet, we get to use class time. Game on.”

With sustainability as their touch point, Trygg and Grant partnered on a project that will come to fruition Friday evening at the Bainbridge High School Theatre.

Volunteer models will strut the runway in clothes the two sewed from scratch using vintage and recycled fabrics.

All fashion show proceeds will go to an Afghani women’s education fund.

The first stage was to gather material. Between flyers around town, announcements on the BHS public address system and word of mouth – not to mention one simpatico teacher who offered her students extra credit for donations – the bundles piled in.

Offerings included everything from leftover quilting scraps to Indian silk to “scary” old blankets. Among the rags, they found plenty of riches.

“We’ve definitely gotten some cool things by not being exclusive,” Trygg said.

After “mud-wrestling” over the choicest items, they each dove in to sketching and sewing, a process that was cooperative rather than collaborative.

Grant was impressed by Trygg’s design and execution skills. Trygg was surprised to see her laid-back friend turn into such a stickler for technical detail. Each praised the other’s inventiveness.

Trygg’s favorite design is a floor-length tiered dress that she describes as “colonial-hippie.” Grant got a kick out of turning some “super gross” purple pants into skinny trousers.

“Most of the stuff we sew is what we wear,” Trygg said. “In all honesty, that’s what we’re inspired by, is what we’re wearing and what our peers are wearing.”

Peers will help stage Friday’s event, as well. The 15 models are largely fellow BHS seniors. Other friends are doing the lighting and sound. Music is everything, Grant says, and the soundtrack, which they’ve been thinking about from day one, will be “epic.”

In addition to a suggested donation at the door, several pieces will be auctioned off, as will a handful of donated eco-conscious accessories.

The girls have set up a bank account for the proceeds, which will then be funneled to the organization GlobalGiving, a clearinghouse that directs funds to the organizations of its donors’ choice.

Trygg and Grant chose women’s education in Afghanistan because they have benefited so much from a quality education, and they want women in a conflict-ridden nation to have better learning opportunities.

Engaging in political action has proved uplifting for Trygg and Grant. They’ve channeled their creative impulses; witnessed community support for their efforts; and organized a large-scale benefit from the ground up.

“I’m feeling very rewarded that my senior year, when I’m so ready to get going, we’ll leave something that will last in the world,” Grant said.


Strutting for good

See the fashions of Hillary Grant and Melanie Trygg on the runway at 8 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Bainbridge High School Theatre. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Suggested donation: $20. All proceeds will go to Afghani women’s education funding through GlobalGiving. Email

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