Bright Young Things

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It certainly doesn’t feel like a high school classroom. Lana del Rey rasps through the speakers, large Chinese lanterns dangle from the ceiling, headless mannequins are lined up like soldiers, and little piles of odds and ends are everywhere: multicolored ping-pong balls, board game pieces, long spirals of receipts. Such is the scene on a mid-November morning at Savannah Arts Academy as students prepare for the annual Junk 2 Funk fashion show.

2018 marks the tenth anniversary of the annual extravaganza, featuring fantastical garments handmade with mostly recycled materials. What began as an after-school project presented by one class has grown into a full-blown event with four presentations across three days. Hundreds of students from multiple departments spend more than six months planning for it. They construct sets, design lighting, orchestrate the run-of-show, photograph lookbooks, direct fashion films and, of course, create the garments.

A look from the 2017 Junk 2 Funk show. Photo by Geoff L. Johnson

This year’s theme is “Let Them Eat Cake,” which event co-founder and SAA visual arts teacher Meghan Scoggins translates as “baroque classicism meets a Katy Perry music video.” Looks, she says, are inspired by party invitations, candy wrappers, desserts and more. Sophomore Kayla Sweat, for instance, constructed an exaggerated shift dress from tiers of cupcake liners, and junior Savannah Jones designed a floor-length gown (pictured above) festooned in frothy layers of pink tulle, its bodice bedecked in thin slices of wine corks. Technically, the materials are “junk,” but the end results are far from it.

In 2008, Scoggins was working on her master’s thesis at the Savannah College of Art and Design and student teaching at Savannah Arts Academy. While observing Trellis Payne’s sculpture class, Scoggins had the idea for Junk 2 Funk. “I remembered this underground thing I saw in Brooklyn once, where adults were showing these junky recycled outfits in a drained pool,” Scoggins recalls. “And then there I was with Trellis and it all came together.”

A look from the 2017 Junk 2 Funk show. Photo by Geoff L. Johnson

After Payne came up with the name Junk 2 Funk, Scoggins developed her thesis project around the idea and the event was born. Scoggins soon moved to Charleston for a teaching position and Payne kept it going solo. In 2011, Scoggins returned, hired by Savannah Arts Academy’s principal, Gifford Lockley. “He saw the Junk 2 Funk vision,” says Payne. “He knew it was time to add another person to the department, and Meghan was the only choice as far as I was concerned.”

A decade later, Junk 2 Funk is SAA’s largest fundraiser, attracting thousands of guests. Miss J of America’s Next Top Model has been known to attend, Phong Dang, an SAA alum and renowned sound designer, travels from Los Angeles to deejay the show, and BlueBelle owner Heather Burge presents an annual $1,000 scholarship to a student designer.

But beyond the glitz and glamour, the raucous applause, the flashing lights and booming music, Junk 2 Funk is about camaraderie. “I’ll never forget the time between a matinee and evening show when I saw two students sitting on the floor together,” Scoggins says. “They hadn’t been friends before, but here they were, covered in glitter, talking and eating chicken nuggets. There are so many friendships that are built from all of this. To me, that’s what it’s all about.”