With a background in costuming for films, TV shows and even Cirque du Soleil, Alison Parker was always surrounded by clothes, costumes and fabric. Parker picked up sewing skills in home economics classes, but she realized that resource isn’t always available for today’s kids in New Orleans. If children here wanted to learn how to sew, they had to pick up the skill from a family member or other outside resource. Parker founded ricRACK (Repurposed and Altered Costumes for Kids) to help teach kids in New Orleans these sewing and fabric repurposing skills. “If there’s any place where a child should be able to learn how to sew, it should be here,” says Parker. After all, most people in the city already have a well-stocked costume box.
Prior to the coronavirus quarantine, ricRACK provided sewing classes for both children and adults, teaching students how to work with all types of fabric. Parker has also partnered with local schools (including KIPP) to provide costuming for school plays out of repurposed clothing. In these classes, kids learn basic hand-sewing stitches, giving them great pride seeing their finished products on the stage. In July, the organization typically works with an Ogden Museum summer camp, teaching kids and teens about repurposing fabric. This camp highlights the waste created by fast fashion, as well as the ways to recycle or repurpose textiles. Many of the students leave with new ideas about how to fix or mend clothes without having to buy something new.
Educating others about the environmental impact of textiles is a huge goal with ricRACK. Not all fabrics are biodegradable, Parker explains, and some contain chemicals and dyes that can bleed into the ground if left in landfills. However, ricRACK’s efforts at repurposing fabrics have already made an impact on the local environment. “We’ve easily diverted close to 15,000 pounds of fabrics,” says Parker. Mending clothes to extend their lifespan, avoiding fast fashion and shopping at local garment manufacturers are some simple steps that can help make a big impact environmentally. By breathing new life into old fabric, ricRACK helps spark creativity and environmental awareness, all while creating cool costumes in the process. Φ