Opera Carolina is a non-profit opera company headquartered in Charlotte, NC. In 2015, Opera Carolina created an environmentally friendly alternative to high fashion, Opera Recycles. I interviewed Opera Recycles founder Megan Miller in 2017. You can read that interview here. I recently caught up with Megan to see what she’s been up to since then.
First New York Fashion Week, now Paris Fashion Week. Did you seek out the organizers or did they come to you?
We were contacted by Oxford Fashion Studios in September of 2017 the day after our NYFW showcase. They had seen our show online and were very interested in having us showcase with them. The initial request was for us to present Opera Recycles in Milan, Italy in September of 2018 but my husband and I were expecting our first child in September. Fortunately, they offered us the option to move to Paris Fashion Week in March 2019. I was beyond excited and flattered that they were willing to move our showcase so we could still make our international debut.
What was the highlight of Paris Fashion Week for you?
For me it was the culture, especially the arts & opera culture. Opera is such an integrated part of the European entertainment scene. I wish it was as mainstream in America as it is out there. When you tell someone you work for the opera there is a sort of “wow factor” in their reaction and they immediately begin to connect with you.
A lot of theatre companies and performance art organizations have done away with printed programs and are putting them online. The reactions from patrons have been mixed. Do you see the opera industry ever going paperless?
I see the opera industry utilizing more digital mediums but never 100%. You’ll never go to a Broadway or Opera performance and be handed an iPad verses a playbill. There will always be some need to recycle after a performance. Arts organizations also still rely heavily on direct mailers to get information out to new audiences , and since people are protective of their privacy, emails addresses are very hard to get nowadays. My hope is that one day there is not enough paper to make paper dresses because we are doing our part as an industry to cut down on the waste.
What is one thing you would suggest to arts organizations that want to be more environmentally conscious?
Look at your resources and your community to see what can be done. Sustainability efforts can be as small as making proper recycling receptacles available at your performances. It just takes one act to start a movement.
Has this initiative ever caught the eye of any other opera companies?
Yes, we are currently working with two opera companies and festivals to integrate Opera Recycles programs into their companies. The initiative has also caught the eye of other companies, and I have personally acted as a consultant for other non-profits and small businesses helping them to create innovative recycling projects for their marketing efforts.
I had some reader questions about this after our last interview, what happens to the dresses after the show?
Almost all of our dresses are upcycled into new Opera Recycles fashions. The average dress has a showcase lifespan of 1-2 years depending on how often they travel and are worn. Once the dress begins to show physical signs of wear and tear the designers deconstruct the dresses and combine the old materials with some “new” recycled materials in their designs. Select dresses are put on display and never worn again to prolong their lifespan while other dresses are brought to the recycling center to be broken down and recycled.
What's next for Opera Recycles?
Opera Recycles is an artistic call to environmental action through the intersection of fashion, sustainability, and music. My goal with this program is to encourage other arts organizations to utilize their resources to create similar programs in their community because like I always say “there is no better way to market art than through art” and Opera Recycles is a beautiful embodiment of that mission. We will continue to do shows across the country every year and our goal will be showcase in Milan Fashion week sometime in the future and bring our collection of dresses and a community of partners with us.
You can see a video of the Paris Fashion Week looks here.
Interview by Glodeane Brown
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