3 Young, Sustainable Designers Share How They Upcycle Old Sneakers Into Chic Corsets
For fashion to truly be sustainable, we need a bit of a lifestyle change. Instead of replacing our once-loved pieces, let's try shifting our mindset to upcycling clothes and accessories. It might sound difficult, but it doesn't have to be. That's why we spoke to three impressive young designers who are turning old sneakers into chic corsets, tops, and bustiers.
All Amin (Berlin, Germany), Graci Pepworth (Bristol, UK), and Cierra Boyd (Ohio, USA) might be from three different parts of the world, but they have a shared vision — living a more sustainable life through fashion and design. Each designer restores old and vintage trainers and transforms them into truly innovative designs. We asked these Gen-Z pioneers why they think that upcycling is essential to the sustainable fashion conversation and how they create their one-of-a-kind pieces.
Boyd never studied fashion and only realized her love for design in her final year of college, around her 21st birthday. "I ordered an outfit but soon realized it wouldn't be there in time for the birthday party, so me and my roommate decided we could just make our outfits," Boyd told POPSUGAR. "The night before my party, I made a red spandex dress that was perfect, and everyone really loved it. From that point on, I told myself that my gift was the eye of style, and I couldn't just give up on that."
"I ordered an outfit but soon realized it wouldn't be there in time for the birthday party, so me and my roommate decided we could just make our outfits".
Pepworth describes herself as having an "obsession for unconventional fashion," which she often flexes by reworking old joggers and jumpers into jackets or old trainers into tops. As soon as Pepworth was old enough to buy her own clothes, she gravitated towards secondhand shops like Depop and car boot sales. "Trying to refrain from throwing out items that I had grown attached to over the years, I began experimenting with reworking to see how I could take an existing piece and turn it into something new for me to wear," Pepworth shared.
Amin's passion for design was fueled by regaining her self-confidence through style and healing past traumas, but once she attended fashion school, she didn't find the sense of belonging that she hoped for. "It's sad to say, but in my studies, I felt stuck," Amin said. "I lost my individuality and understanding of what fashion really should mean these days." It's not until she dropped out of fashion school and began to experiment with her own creativity that Amin realized what was important to her — and that was upcycling.
Buying sustainable clothing isn't a solution for everyone. Let's face it: much like buying the organic option at the grocery store, ethical and sustainably made clothing is set at a price point that is well beyond the average shopper's budget — and that's where upcycling comes in. Upcycling is a way to engage in the sustainable fashion movement in a way that gives new life to old clothes and accessories while creating a circular economy. It's an accessible way, for many young people, to tap into the mounds of past-season, deadstock clothes, fast fashion, vintage, and heavily worn pieces to create custom designs with some help from their own creativity. Fashion's future is absolutely about sustainable and ethical options from brands that are transparent, inclusive, and honest but it's also about a change in mindset and a healthier relationship with how we use our clothes.
"I've made an effort to no longer throw away materials, like the soles that I have after I deconstruct sneakers, and I save all scrap materials and sell them or reuse them."
"My entire brand originated with upcycling before I even knew I was doing it," Boyd said. "When I started my brand, I was so financially unstable, and I couldn't afford to buy the fabrics I really wanted. I began using materials I already had in my attic and clothing that my parents no longer used around the house. After I really got down to the facts about how fast fashion was polluting our earth, I began to boycott many of the fast fashion retailers that I loved so much and strictly stuck to thrift stores, Depop, and other consignment shops for used clothing."
"I've made an effort to no longer throw away materials, like the soles that I have after I deconstruct sneakers, and I save all scrap materials and sell them or reuse them. I also made a commitment this year to no longer purchase manufactured fabrics because commercial textile waste is also a huge contributing factor to the underlying issue. Not only are the dyes harmful to the environment and contribute to water pollution, but it can take up to 40 years for the fabrics to break down in a landfill! I think my generation is slowly starting to wake up to the fact that this is a huge issue that we can slowly resolve with time. I'm starting to see more of my peers also boycott the fast fashion industry by shopping with independent designers and turning to used or upcycled clothing."
Amin thinks that upcycling fashion should be the only way that any aspiring designer approaches their work. "It's not necessary anymore to study fashion if you're not aware of all the problems the fashion industry causes. You have to be willing to be part of bringing the change," she said. "I really feel sick about fashion schools where sustainability still isn't the main topic. It shouldn't only be about finding your own identity, and focusing on creativity by working on two new collections each year, if you are not pushing sustainability in the industry forward. There's tons of clothes already in the market produced by the f*cked up fast fashion industry, and they won't stop, no matter how our planet suffers from it because that's the broken capitalistic system we're living in. So better grab yourself all kinds of used materials that are already there and reuse them into your next collections!"
If you fancy trying your hand at upcycling, keep reading ahead for Graci, All, and Cierra's best tips for transforming old trainers into chic corsets, bustiers, and tops.