A skirt made from shirts... a dress made from table cloths... a cardigan made from two jerseys... and luxurious nightgown from a sentimental souvenir... a coat made for walking Canada's cold streets in in the 1980's, now re-tailored for city life in Dunedin for winter 2019.
These are some of the projects we worked on at the top of Dunedin Public Library last month during ID Fashion Week.
Desi and I were joined by four attendees with a wide range of background sewing experience, all keen for ideas on how to re-imagine items which had been stashed away (in several cases for years).
Treasured items made from silk, cashmere, organic linen and denim (from days before Lycra and polyester were added). Items that were hand-made by them decades ago, or by family members, or 'the tiny gentleman who worked in a cupboard-sized workshop just off the street in Bangkok' ...
These are common themes we experience with Upcycling: items where the provenance is personal, the fabric of a quality that seems undervalued in the current form, or simply the desire to make something more practical for our contemporary taste and lifestyle.
It is hugely rewarding to take inspiration for what something already is, and consider what form it could be to become more than what it was - more practical, more appreciated, more beautiful, and much more personal.
In our Mend & Make Awesome workshops, we see this on a small scale. People repairing or altering items to improve them. Upcycling however, is a much bigger (and often trickier) enterprise, involving many hours work, and often facing challenges when the previous shape resists your efforts and you have to think again. It's easy to become disheartened and stuck, and end up with grand plans put indefinitely on hold.
This is where having some outside advice is so valuable. Having another person to bounce ideas with, suggest alternatives techniques, or to make the tea!
This workshop was a delight on all levels, and we hope to organise more in the near future!
What makes you an ‘upcycler’? Why do you go about it? And how does clothing upcycling impact on the fashion industry?
These are the questions being asked in by Masters of Sociology candidate Kirsten Koch, in new research facilitated through the University of Otago, Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work.
Kirsten has has already achieved a Master of Fine Arts in Textiles; Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Sociology, Graduate Diploma in Indigenous Development, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Anthropology. She is also a practicing textile artist, upcycler, and (when she can fit it into her schedule) guest tutor at Stitch Kitchen.
Her latest research project aims to investigate current textile practitioners utilizing clothing upcycling as a component of their practice. It will shed light on issues such as:
In recent years, upcycling has become well known term, used by amateur home sewists to high end designers, textile artists, bloggers, authors and reporters, as reworking clothing has become popular across a wide cross section of ages, lifestyles and cultural backgrounds.
Kirsten has defined ‘upcycling clothing’ as: a practice which utilizes second-hand textiles to create new and original garments. She has defined ‘practice’ as: the making, marketing, displaying, interaction and exchange of upcycled clothing and textiles.
From her own experience, Kirsten believes practitioners may upcycle for a variety of interrelated reasons such as enriching their and others lives, DIY, sustainability, affordability, beauty, politics, aesthetics, experimentation, and self-differentiation.
As part of the study, Kirsten will be organising a public forum, where participants in the study will share with the wider community, their inspiration and creations. The role of upcycling within the wider context of the fashion industry will also be highlighted in this forum to be held on Wednesday 24th April, coinciding with international Fashion Revolution Day. This forum is open the public, and will be a fascinating insight into this increasingly popular practice. For more information about the seminar, please email Kirsten: email@example.com
We are each looking forward to taking part in this fantastic research, and seeing how it will highlight the value of repurposing clothing, not only personally, but in understanding and enriching our ever changing culture of fashion.
Would you like to be part of this study?