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'Sustainability and the Little Black Dress': Phoenix Fashion Week model pushes Native culture, upcycling

Phoenix native Elena Marshall began designing clothes during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic at the age of 16 as a way to creatively pass time. 

Her first “staple piece” was a cocoa aerosol inspired ball gown which was made out of a pair of sheets with a Victorian design and a large rip down the side. “I bought the dress and completely navigated around the rip … to this day it’s one of my most staple pieces” she said. It was the design that started it all for her. 

“It was kind of my quarantine hobby,” she said. Now in her 15th runway show, she has managed to establish herself in the world of professional design. Her focus is sustainable fashion and upcycling old pieces, the most recent example of which is her new fully recycled denim collection. 

“That’s also what I used for the little black dress,” she said, referring to her design which was a finalist in Phoenix Fashion Week’s sustainable Little Black Dress Challenge. “I used two old skirts and a random dress that I found and I was like, ‘Okay!’” 

The long flowy gown beat out 2 other dresses and won her the title and a check for $250. After so much success, this isn’t just a quarantine hobby anymore for Elena. She’s looking to have a career in fashion. 

“Honestly I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she said. “I love everything about what I do.”

Elena Marshall can be found on Instagram

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