KING CITY — When someone refers to Consuelo “Connie” Hernandez as a “trashionista,” it’s not intended as an insult. In fact, the longtime scheduling supervisor for Mee Memorial Healthcare System considers it the ultimate compliment.
Whether it’s creating a flowy gown made of Covid vaccine vials, wings out of surgical masks or an entire outfit adorned with secondhand costume jewelry, Hernandez’s designs are guaranteed to turn heads for all the right reasons.
“Trashion” is a word for art, jewelry, fashion and objects created from used, thrown-out, found and repurposed elements. First coined in New Zealand in 2004, the word is all the buzz in South Monterey County each year in advance of Alliance on Aging’s South County Trashion Show.
First held in 2016, the annual fundraiser combines art, fashion and ecology around a new theme each year.
Hernandez and other local trashionistas have been busy for months preparing for this year’s show on Tuesday, Sept. 13, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds in King City. The fashion show/luncheon is a fundraiser to benefit seniors in South Monterey County.
Each year, event organizers encourage designers to use as much upcycled plastic, paper, metals as possible to create an entire outfit — including decorated shoes, hats, bags and jewelry.
The theme for 2022 is “American Bandstand and Grease.” The show will be choreographed to high-energy party music based on each design.
“You can go with the theme or go with our own,” said Hernandez, who has worked for MMHS for 19 years. “The first dress we did was out of surgical gloves. I had no experience at all. I didn’t even know how to sew, but I was asked to represent Mee and I thought it sounded fun. Now, every year I find two people to help me. I design it, we put it together and I model it.”
Each year Hernandez and her team feel the pressure to eclipse the dress from the year before. It often takes months to design the dress, collect items and assemble it. One year she made a dress out of jewelry collected from colleagues.
During the height of the pandemic, no one could imagine why Hernandez began collecting empty vaccine vials until she unveiled her creation on the runway.
“It’s always a surprise,” she said. “Many times it represents all the hard work from the Mee staff, helping others, saving lives.”
Hernandez has kept this year’s design under wraps for the most part.
“The theme this year involves the 1960s, so we’re going to loosely follow that, but bringing it around to 60 years of Mee Memorial in our community,” she said. “It’s fun and for a good cause, and that’s what matters most.”