IT. FINALLY. HAPPENED. After 18 Seasons, Goodwill finally strutted it’s way onto Project Runway!

To kick off 2020, Project Runway aired an upcycle-focused episode (Episode 4, Season 18), “The Ultimate Upcycle,” where the season’s designers were challenged with finding gems from the Goodwill NYNJ and transforming them into new creations.

The crew at FYG got a chance to watch this DIY adventure – here are our favorite moments and notes on the episode!

Episode Challenge: Mega-stylist to the stars and Creative Director, Karla Welch guest-mentored the designers in this episode, asking them to dress her client, Karlie Kloss, in something unique, original, upcycled and wearable. PS – Karla’s clients include everyone from Justin Bieber to Travey Ellis Ross, so we were especially excited to hear her take on luxe Goodwill DIY transformations.

Karla Welch and Karlie Kloss <3

Timeframe: 1 Day to create, 45 minutes to shop

Budget: $150

Judge: Laverne Cox

Overall Thoughts

As the show kicked off, we were really excited, thinking about the possibilities for sustainability, mission and DIY-focused public education. The opportunities to educate viewers about sustainability, the chance to discuss a little bit about Goodwill’s mission, the platform to showcase the true power of upcycling….there’s a lot. Let’s just say we had many hopes and expectations for the show’s 1 hour length.

But when the show actually began to progress – it was clear that the focus would be solely on style and aesthetics of fashion, with upcycling as a tactic. There were very few mentions of fashion’s impact on the environment and what Goodwill does for the community, not just its stores.

This was a tad disappointing, knowing that there’s so much behind the power of DIY and thrift. However, this Goodwill showcase was an excellent start to bringing Goodwill into the actual high fashion conversation.

Designer Preferences

Throughout the episode, we fell in love with the stories of a few designers:

  • We were introduced to Austin, TX designer, Sergio Guadarrama, who often uses discarded fashion house materials from names like Dior and Prada, to make “new” luxurious creations. Off the bat, we wondered if he would own this episode, for he already had experiences with reconstruction. Although we loved Sergio’s experiences with DIY, later on in the episode, he tried to sabotage another designer’s work. Not cool, Sergio!
  • Shavi Lewis found the love of thrifting through his grandma, who also taught him how to sew. This was such a great story to showcase, since I think many of us in the Goodwill community can relate. We were in tears when he reminisced about his memories! PS – He often purchased items with his grandma to take apart and reconstruct to learn about garment creation. How cool!
  • Melanie Trygg thrifted many items for her wedding! What a great way to educate the public about how thrifting spans all facets of life. Plus, Melanie also thrifted a ton with her mother, and noted that it was once of her most frequented stores.
Shavi Lewis sharing memories about shopping with his Grandma

It’s important to note that the above designer’s stories come from all backgrounds and cultures. It was clear here that the beauty of thrift can unite all, no matter who you are.

Melanie’s Thrifted Wedding

The statements of some designers did make us a little peeved. However, I think this episode’s challenge opened their eyes to what Goodwill stores offer.

  • Designer Delvin McCray stated, “I don’t shop at thrift stores or secondhand shops. I understand the fashion industry trying to be more eco-friendly, but I don’t like used things.” I wish the show went into this more, for there are many reasons why people don’t like used things, especially based on differing cultures and upbringings. Despite that, I’m glad they included this snippet at the start of the episode, so that viewers could see how buying “used,” is one of the best shopping choices one could make.
  • I was also disappointed to hear how hard other designers were on secondhand. Right when the designers went to Goodwill for their textile search, Victoria noted that she’d never heard of upcycling and that thrift stores don’t have quality materials. “It’s hard to make anything chic from a thrift store.” Meanwhile, I’ve literally seen the casual outfit that she wore while shopping at a Goodwill.
I’ve found pants AND shoes like these while thrifting.

What do they teach in fashion design school?

This show made me wonder how much is taught about fast fashion and upcycling in fashion design school. It seemed that throughout this episode, designers didn’t know too much about the practice. This is something I’d love to learn more about from FYG readers.

If these topics aren’t taught, it’s time they should be. Waste starts at the start of the fashion creation supply chain.

Favorite quote of the episode: “I love upcycling so freaking much.”

What’s a Project Runway Review without a mention of our favorite final looks?

Most Creative/Our Favorite: Brittany’s final creation was our absolute favorite. Why? She truly upcycled! Unlike the other designers, she created a one-of-a-kind dress out of 4 shirts, a skirt, and other items that were actually cut up and repurposed. Other designers tweaked suits, shirts and other pieces to make “new” creations, without going full force with thinking outside of the box.

Did you know that the sleeves were made from a skirt?

Another favorite of ours included this denim two-piece beauty fashioned out of about 12 pairs of denim by Chelsea Carter. Talk about a sewing masterpiece! We still can’t believe she made this in a day.

Our Least Favorites: We’ll have to agree with the judges here. This dress, with a Seinfeld ruffle screamed too BCBG/Wet Seal circa early 2000s for us, in the worst way. For a piece that was made out of prom gowns and pants, this was quite underwhelming.

Laverne Cox Fun Fact That Everyone Should Know: At goodwill where Laverne started shopping in the women’s and girl’s section for the very first time. A great way for her to find he identity.

Our Least Favorite Fashion Moments:

  • Sergio tied shirt sleeves together to make a shirt. This wasn’t so creative for the complexity and expertise of this show. While it looked nice, it wasn’t too impressive. Some might argue that simple can be more though!
  • SO MUCH BLAZER. I wish they had picked things like t-shirts and other items in bulk at Goodwill to upcycle. Blazers seemed like a cop out.
  • No glitz? Of ALL the amazing pieces that can be found at Goodwill that are ready-to-wear, not an item was shown. This was definitely a missed opportunity to showcase the greatness of thrift.

As mentioned in our intro, there were some areas of exploration in the show that weren’t addressed.

  • There was only one mention of sustainability and waste when discussing the environmental impact of denim. That’s it!
  • The show discussed what upcycling is, but I don’t think it when in enough on why it’s important and who it could be a part of the future of fashion.
  • No mention of Goodwill’s mission – sad face!

Overall, this episode was awesome. Anyway that we can get thrift and upcycling at the forefront of the fashion world is a great stride. We hope that they include this challenge moving forward in every season!


Carolyn Becker

A self-proclaimed thrifty spunky petite fashionista who works in the marketing field by day, and is an artist and musician by night. You can find her bragging about her designer Goodwill thrift finds on her Instagram: @petite_punk.