Local 12: Behind the scenes of the St. Vincent de Paul RetroFittings fashion show

A dress that is also a table and other fashion statements by UC design students

For almost two decades, the University of Cincinnati School of Design and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) have collaborated on an annual fashion show, called “RetroFittings” — a runway show where UC fashion design majors craft garments solely from pre-loved items they selected from SVDP thrift stores with a meager stipend. 

The 2023 show, themed “…But Make It Fashion,” took place on Oct. 19 at Cincinnati’s Music Hall and drew an audience of approximately 450 guests. The event raised $200,000 for SVDP, a social service agency that operates a charitable pharmacy, thrift stores, food pantries and more. The joint effort also aligns with Fashion for Good, a global initiative to inspire change and drive the collective movement to make fashion a force for good. 

model wearing an outfit of recycled items with a "tea" symbols: fan, embroidery

Photo/courtesy of DAAP

Model wearing red silk outfits with black trim and lace

Photo/courtesy of DAAP

This year’s show, which was previewed by Local 12, presented students with an added challenge, however. The 45 design students who participated were encouraged to choose materials that were not clothing-related. Their creations utilized unique finds such as book pages, puzzle pieces, lampshades, baseball gear, flags, tents, comforters, drapes, Mardi Gras beads, baskets, tablecloths, broken CDs and more.

“Even something as non-chic as adult diapers was transformed into stunning runway pieces,” says Laurie Wilson, an instructor at UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP) who oversees the collaboration. 

two models on the runway wearing multi-colored garments

Photo/courtesy of DAAP

two models on the runway wearing flowing, multi colored dresses

Photo/courtesy of DAAP

The garments featured on the runway were some of the most unique in the 18-year history of this alliance, Wilson says, adding that the participation of students from Paul Mitchell The School in Cincinnati (to create makeup and hair designs) completed the full fashion show aesthetic.

According to Kristen Gallagher, SVDP’s senior marketing and communications manager, in the past year SVDP Thrift Stores have distributed over half a million dollars’ worth of clothing, furniture and basic housewares, at no cost, to neighbors in need in Greater Cincinnati through a voucher program.

“Weaving together fashion and philanthropy, the RetroFittings fashion show proves a good cause never goes out of style,” says Gallagher. 

Featured image at top of final showing: All About the Tea. Photo/DAAP 

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