Parkite Sonia Thomas, who came to Utah from Argentina in the early 2000s, decided to establish Olanova, a fashion line that uses upcycled fabrics to create new outfits and help eliminate waste.
In doing so, Thomas provides local women jobs as seamstresses and helps them develop skills.
In addition, Thomas founded a nonprofit branch called Olanova Global, which does the same thing around the world in impoverished countries, and even provides sewing machines to the women who live there.
"When these women learn to do things on their own, like sew, they don't have to rely on other people for help," Thomas said.
One of Olanova Global's goals is to provide 1 million sewing machines to women by 2019.
So far, Thomas has three.
"We are looking for someone to help fix them," she said. "I would love to partner with someone to do that."
In addition to asking the public to donate machines or money, Thomas will host two Olanova Global Fashion shows at the Newpark Hotel on Friday, Nov. 15, at noon and 6 p.m.
The shows will serve as an auction fundraiser.
"The models will walk down the runway wearing these new outfits and we'll start with a minimum bid of something like $30 and open it up to the public," Thomas explained. "That way the people will be able to take these wonderful outfits home and we will be able to raise money to create new jobs and help women become more reliant."
Olanova Global was established eight months ago and Thomas has been busy with her "EcoMobile" van that goes from area to area along the Wasatch Front and Back to collect clothes and fabrics.
"We take them all — curtains, upholstery, leather, anything, and we also take all the material from second-hand clothing as well," she said. "Many people who see the clothes that we make, never guess they are made from second-hand materials."
Helping women develop skills is an important mission for Thomas, who grew up in poverty before a nonprofit organization helped with her education.
"Many times when people think of impoverished populations, children come to mind," Thomas said "Yes, sometimes it's easier to help children with nonprofits because one of the ideas is that people are investing in the future.
"But Olanova focuses on women because they are also the future," she said. "Our view is that if you help the mother, you will help the children. Also, if you help and empower women in these areas, you reduce prostitution."
Thomas, who earned a degree in marketing and communication from Brigham Young University, has worked with communities where prostitution was, in many cases, the only way a woman could provide for her family.
"They have told me that this is how they make money because they have no skills or education," Thomas said. "Another problem with this is that when the mother is working, her children are being abused by their neighbors because she is never at home. We want to break that pattern."
The Newpark fashion show is the first Olanova Global event in Park City, Thomas said.
"We have held a few of these in Salt Lake City and Midvale, so it is exciting for us to come up here," she said. "For these particular shows, we will model clothes that are simple, practical and colorful."
Olanova Global will host two Eco-Fashion shows at the Newpark Hotel, 1456 Newpark Blvd. at Kimball Junction on Friday, Nov. 15. Admission is $20 at the door. For more information, to donate or to inquire about sponsoring the show, visit www.olanova.com.