Sass Brown’s ReFashioned: Cutting Edge Clothing From Upcycled Materials, is the second in a series focusing on the eco-fashion movement. Previously, in Eco Fashion, she examined designers and labels (including Alabama Chanin) practicing sustainability in the fashion industry. In ReFashioned, she features 46 international designers who create using recycled and upcycled textiles. The result is a stunning volume of forward-thinking design that also opens a discussion on the current state of fashion and its many wasteful practices.
Sass is one of the most knowledgeable and thoughtful voices in the eco-fashion movement. She considers herself a fashion activist, writing, “As a designer and writer, I like to tell the stories around our clothes, to help revive our material connection to our clothing.” She says, “It became equally important for me to reveal the hidden price tag of fast fashion, as a means to promote conscious consumerism.”
The artists chronicled in the book cast off the notion of eco-fashion as boring, unstylish, utilitarian clothing. They are asking important questions, including: must luxury goods be made from “luxury” materials? The clothing and accessories highlighted here are beautiful as a result of the materials and methods used to produce them, not in spite of them. In fact, that is a notion that Sass often espouses – that sustainable fashion has to focus on design first. In other words, making boring, unattractive clothes sustainably isn’t solving any problems. Eco-fashion must be beautiful, well designed, and sustainable; otherwise, why produce more garments?
The designers featured in ReFashioned show that eco-fashion can be smart, cutting edge, fun, playful, rebellious, and fashion forward – among many other things. The book looks at designers working with used materials and unused materials, examining ways to both repurpose material that still has life and find a way to beautifully use what might otherwise be considered waste material.
Viennese label km/a uses non-traditional, end-of-life materials to create modern garments. An ongoing collection of outerwear is made from Austrian prison blankets, made by the prisoners themselves. Each blanket, and each garment, has a unique story unlike anything mass-produced. Mayer Peace Collection, a Berlin-based label, designs perfectly tailored jackets made from antique flour sacks. Piece x Piece is a San Francisco-based line made from textile and garment industry’s unwanted scrap material. Each designer has a different approach, but a sustainable goal.
The fashion industry cannot exist in a vacuum. Creativity, complexity, and ethical practices can all coexist, not only within a single industry, but within a single business. It is exciting to see designers working with new materials and finding revolutionary ways to utilize old materials. Sass Brown likes to talk about “recontextualizing” waste to be seen as a resource, rather than as trash. The designers highlighted in ReFashioned are doing that type of transformation of old ideas, design concepts, and materials, to establish new and innovative points of view.