SA celebs dress trashy as designers fashion looks from plastic waste
The #RefashionPlastic project shows that it's possible to make rubbish beautiful and give it value
Plastic is a symptom of our perverse relationship with nature. We've been told that plastic is bad for the planet, that most of it is not recycled and that soon there'll be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Yet, we're addicted to the stuff and continue to produce more virgin plastic all the time, compounding the world's waste and climate change problems. Can we change our relationship with plastic? Yes. But first we have to understand the extent of the challenge.
For this year's #PlasticFreeMzansi campaign Twyg, a not-for-profit company inspiring and supporting a modern, eco-conscious and forward-thinking lifestyle, asked five designers to #RefashionPlastic by making garments and accessories from the plastic waste found in their homes and studios.
"One of the more alarming conclusions of this project was realising the amount of plastic waste that my household is responsible for producing," says Hamzeh Alfarahneh from Not Just a Comb, one of the participating designers. "#RefashionPlastic has opened my eyes to the potential of using plastic waste as components for design."
The materials used by the designers include wood bags, computer packaging, U-Cook ziplock bags, shopping bags, chip packets, mesh produce bags and rPET strapping made from green plastic bottles.
Everything they made was designed to protect the wearer against the cold and wet and had to be made from plastic that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill, or worse, as toxic waste in the environment. They were also asked to keep Covid-19 in mind during the design process.
The collection of final designs includes a Viviers Studio trench coat by designer Lezanne Viviers, a One I Am plastic bag by artist and designer Onesimo Bam, a basket by Our Workshop, lanyards from Not Just a Comb and 'Happy Hats' by milliner Crystal Birch.
The project illustrates a popular solution to the global environmental problem: circular thinking. We need to move away from the current linear economic system based on "take, make and waste" to a circular one that keeps materials in use forever and designs waste out of our systems.
During July, the eclectic collection of finished items was sent to five changemakers around the country who styled their own unique #RefashionPlastic looks.
Garments were couriered from Johannesburg and Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay where stylist Louw Kotze and photographer Sean Metelerkamp created futuristic fashion images against the backdrop of the seaside town.
From Plettenberg Bay, the collection was sent to Cape Town in the recycled rPET basket made by Our Workshop. In Cape Town, it was sent to musician and storyteller Zolani Mahola [former lead singer of Freshlyground], then to businesswoman Carol Bouwer and to the director of the Norval Foundation, Elana Brundyn.
After being used in photoshoots with the aforementioned movers and shakers, the basket was sent to Johannesburg to be photographed adorning the super-stylish Yasmin Furmie and media personality Luthando Shosha aka LootLove.
Mahola described the #PlasticFreeMzansi campaign as "a reframing of consciousness". On Instagram, Mahola wrote: "Amazing designers used their creativity to #reuse, #reduce, #recycle, #refashion #upcycle what we call waste and make something COMPLETELY NEW!"
Bouwer and Brundyn reinforced this messaging and Furmie celebrated the designers who created beautiful clothes by reusing and recycling waste.
Saving the world and, in doing so, ourselves doesn't have to be humourless or ugly. These creatives bring the quote by trend forecaster Li Edelkoort — which appears on Bam's #RefashionPlastic bag — to life: "This [global crisis] doesn't mean we will stop making beautiful things; on the contrary, beauty is a form of activism."
A CLOSER LOOK AT SOME OF THE CLOTHES
Designed by Lezanne Viviers of Viviers Studio, the upcycled plastic utilitarian and protective trench coat is being worn during the Covid-19 pandemic and will remain relevant as a water-resistant raincoat once the pandemic has passed. It is easily wiped and sanitised.
Viviers used light-blue disposable medical fabric, woven plastic bags, U-Cook Ziplock bags and computer packaging. Double welt seams strengthen and support the plastic and help keep germs out. Functional utility flaps with easy closures allow for essential accessories like cellphones and car keys.
Onesimo Bam, designer and artist and founder of One I Am, made a bag from a shopping bag and recycled black bags, which he cut into strips and wove.
He says, "The pattern happened organically. I included a personal message from [international trend forecaster] Li Edelkoort because it was appropriate for the current times we are living in."
With #RefashionPlastic, Crystal Birch launches Happy Hats, a collection of upcycled polyester hats. For this project she has created two hats from 100% polyester fabric, one from an old silver dress from her wardrobe and another from a faux fur jacket. [Faux fur is also made of plastic.]
She says, "By creating new garments out of old plastic ones I have extended the lifespan of discarded clothing. People will get excited to wear an item, which could even come out of their own wardrobe."
• The #RefashionPlastic project was initiated by Twyg, Biru Experiments and The Beach Co-op for the #PlasticFreeMzansi campaign. Click here to help fund the recycling plastic initiative.
• Disclosure: The author of this article, Jackie May, is the founder of Twyg.