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Molokai Youth Wins 2nd in Recycled Fashion Show

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

Photo by Carol Rocha.

Eleven-year-old Molokai resident Rose Elder earned second place in a county-wide fashion show highlighting recycled materials. Her “Warrior Against Pollution” costume, made with marine debris she and her dad collected on Molokai beaches, won her high praise alongside adult first and third place winners from Maui in the annual Trashion Show presented by nonprofit Malama Maui Nui last weekend. 

Rose said she sketched her design based on the materials she found. 

“I wanted it to be a warrior who’s wearing pollution like a shield,” she explained. “We like to go to the beach a lot, me and my dad, and gather trash at Mo’omomi. I saw the perfect materials to do it.”

Rose is homeschooled and worked on her submission for a couple hours a day for about a month to complete in time to submit to the competition. 

“The Art of Trash and Trashion Show is an annual juried exhibition that inspires our Maui Nui community to reimagine discarded resources and transform them for use as elements for creative inspiration,” the Malama Mui Nui website explains.

Jurors made their selections based on the transformation of material, quality of craftsmanship and overall creativity, said Julia Rubenstein, Malama Maui Nui’s interim executive director. 

The organization flew Rose and her family to Maui for the event, where she showcased her costume on the runway alongside other contestants who were selected as finalists. 

“We all wanted to sit down, because we were standing for 2.5 hours but we couldn’t sit down because if we did, our costumes would either rip or slice us!” Rose laughed. “My armpits hurt so bad – still! My costume had a sharp plastic right under my armpit.”

But she showed her warrior colors and fought through the discomfort to stand as they announced the winners. 

“They went from honorable mentions, and once they said third place, I thought, ‘no, no, no, I’m nothing now,’ recalled Rose of the experience. “I would have thought I would get honorable mention at least. But I got second place, I can’t believe it!”

“Rose was fierce on the runway and we very much look forward to seeing what she creates next year!” said Rubenstein. 

Students of Molokai Middle School also submitted pieces, and though they did not attend in person, a video of their work was presented at the awards ceremony. 

Rose’s father, Jason Elder, earned honorable mention for his entry to the Art of Trash show. 

“Me and my dad always go to the beach and collect all the trash we can,” said Rose. “We’ve done that for years. But once I figured out there’s this competition, I wanted to be part of it because I’ve been picking up trash pretty much my whole life.”

Both her father and her mother, Carol Rocha, are artists and have done shows, but this was her first experience being in a show herself, Rose explained. 

“Rose has always loved fashion, specifically designing,” said Rocha. “She has been sewing from a young age and often up cycles clothing into new looks.”

In fact, Rose recently completed all of the costume alterations for The Legend of Mulan play performed by Hokulani Children’s Theatre of Molokai, of which she was a part.

“When Rose had the opportunity to enter the Trashion Show, it was a no brainer,” continued Rocha. “She worked for weeks on her look and was very passionate about her title, ‘Warrior of Pollution.’ Rose has always loved our planet earth and fights on the front lines of keeping it clean and healthy.”


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