Fashion students take innovative approach to aid the poor

Marcela Meiado made this dress with recycled plastic bags. (courtesy of Lindsay Fox/Marcela Meiado)

Kseny Boklan

The students at Saddleback College’s fashion department have designed projects that serve the greater good around the globe.

After traveling to Indonesia, Lindsay Fox, the head of the Saddleback College fashion department, said that she found herself struck by the lack of water and starvation experienced by indigenous people.

“Since they spend most of their day searching for water, they don’t have time for anything else, such as finding food,” said Fox.

In response, she became involved with local individuals, demanding change in the way we care for underdeveloped societies. Fox decided to introduce Saddleback fashion students to the concept of human compassion and a new class, Draping for a Cause, was born.

Students in this class work with different causes, such as Sumba Foundation, which helps an Indonesian village to get water, food, and medical care, said Fox.

“I wanted students to think about how different materials drape and [to] think outside the box,” Fox said. “Using nets to make costumes is one way students have helped to bring awareness to the Sumba cause and fighting malaria.”

The Draping for a Cause class allows each student to pick from three causes: the Sumba Foundation, the International Princess Project or plastic bag recycling. Students then design something that draws attention to that cause, said Fox.

For example, students made drapes from sari fabrics to support the International Princess Project, which seeks to end human trafficking by teaching rescued women how to sew and then sell pajamas from leftover sari material. Women in this program can receive the help they need to start a new life.

To bring awareness to the issue of recycling plastic bags, students made a raincoat and a skirt from plastics. Joany Harnendez, fashion, inspired beyond the Draping class, sewed blankets to aid an orphanage.

“I loved the draping class,” said Amanda Hunn, 19, fashion. “It was one of the best classes I ever took.”

She took her inspiration from her draping class to her dyeing class. Hunn hand-dyed 145 shirts for the Capo Beach Calvary Church, which sponsors an orphanage in Swaziland, Africa. With the help of her mom, who funded all the T-shirts, and her boyfriend, Hunn has dressed every child in the orphanage, most of who has little clothing to begin with, in a unique design.

A former Saddleback student Amana Nova, now on the fashion advisory board, did a presentation for students in the dyeing class about her cause, Skills for Humanity. She opened a clothing store in Laguna Beach, then started the Moon Company to teach women in Nepal how to knit sweaters and spin yarn made out of recycled sari.

After successfully buying out her company, she started this nonprofit foundation in order to help people acquire new skills and teach them how to make a profit with available free materials.

“What I really wanted to do is get water for the people,” said Nova. “You can give them money, but it won’t change the situation.”

She was inspired to open a center in Ubud, Indonesia, where locals and foreigners can take classes to learn how to make crafts, dye, weave, and knit.

The success that both Draping for a Cause class and the Eco fashion class have generated has launched a new class for next year: the Designing for a Cause class. The fashion department is also looking into designing a study abroad program in Indonesia.

This program would allow students to travel to Bali to learn about native handicrafts. Students who design their own line will get help making their first samples in Indonesia, Nova said. “They can then launch these samples when they return back home.”

“We as designers can be more conscious entrepreneurs,” Nova said. “What motivates me is having fun and doing something creative that can actually save lives.”

Student which participated in supporting a cause will be honored with achievement awards from the fashion department. Prizes will be awarded during the upcoming “La Mode Du Cirque” fashion show on Thursday at Saddleback College.

Saddleback’s fashion department blog at has all the latest events, including new classes, upcoming fashion show information and photos of students’ designs.

To learn more about Skills for Humanity organization visit To volunteer for the Sumba Foundation in Indonesia check out To support women once enslaved in the sex trade, visit the International Princess Foundation at

Amanda Hunn tie-dyed shirts for the Capo Beach Calvary Church to donate to an orphanage in Africa. (courtesy of Lindsay Fox)