“Recycling your wardrobe doesn’t necessarily require cutting, mending or sewing if the clothes you own are in pristine condition.”
Pauline Zamorano is truly one of the warmest people I have ever met, and I only spoke with her for an hour on Zoom. At just 23 years old, Paulina is a force to be reckoned with. After recently completing an undergraduate degree in visual arts and graphic design, she is now studying fashion design and spends her free time volunteering for a non-profit arts organization, Connection Arts Space.
He’s a real creative talent, maybe that’s why two years ago he was asked to join the Converse All Stars.
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First launched here in Australia, the All Stars program recruits young creatives locally. Converse makes it a priority to nurture this young talent by leveraging its own global network to provide some pretty special opportunities. Take, for example, All Stars’ specially curated fashion week show, or the time it offered All Stars the opportunity to harness the creative mind of the late Virgil Abloh.
For its latest All Stars initiative, Converse commissioned Paulina to create custom artwork over four days at the brand’s Renew Labs Fitzroy concept space – an all-new jacket using scrap fabric, second-hand items and upcycled materials. . The project, which she worked on together with fellow All Stars Tori Talaina and Aysha Nanai-Leifi, is a mammoth effort, showing that you can create something beautiful from nothing.
It was a site-specific project. Renew Labs is basically the antithesis of a store, designed to help customers extend the life of their beloved shoes and clothes, rather than buying something new.
Despite all her success, Paulina is endearingly humble and practical, which seems to reflect her attitude towards clothes. She believes in acquiring things she knows are timeless, caring for them so they last, and when they eventually wear out completely, she gives the fabric one last life as something utilitarian (like the cushion padding).
During our chat, Paulina shared some of her tips for getting the most out of your wardrobe, which I’ve compiled for you below.
Use natural dyes to mask stains or to breathe new life into dull fabric
Honestly, I don’t care if I have stains on my clothes, I always wear them anyway, but dyeing your clothes is a great option to help hide stains. When people have stubborn stains on their clothes that can’t be removed with soap and water, they often choose to use bleach, but I prefer to use natural dyes. Bleach has a very bad impact on the environment, while natural dye reuses things that might end up in your compost bin, like vegetable skins and avocado pits.
Embroidery and appliqués are great for patching holes or hiding stains
If you have a stain or hole, another method is to embroider the affected area with thread. By adding a deliberately decorative element to clothes you might have considered throwing away, you highlight that flaw and make it look good again. If you want to cover a larger area, appliqué may be the way to go.
This technique consists of decorating clothes by using other pieces of fabric to form images or patterns. There is a beautiful Japanese technique called ‘Boro‘ which uses a repeated running stitch to attach one piece of fabric to another. It doesn’t require too much knowledge of hand sewing, as it only requires a simple running stitch.
Don’t be afraid to use scissors to rework a garment
Depending on where the hole or stain is, the item may be completely reworked. For example, I know many of us have holes in our t-shirts where the fabric rubs against the buttons of our pants – why not cut that t-shirt up and make a crop top? Maybe it’s on the sleeve and you want to turn your old plain t-shirt into an asymmetrical top?
If you’re serious about reworking your clothes, a sewing machine will make the job a whole lot easier.
I learned to sew by watching my mother and grandmother mend and alter the clothes of other members of my family. It makes things much faster, and because it’s a machine, it means it can do some of the heaviest jobs that my hands can’t. The sewing machine I use belongs to my mother, but I take care of it as if it were my own. This is my pride and my joy!
Sharp, good quality scissors are an absolute must
Other than my sewing machine, my scissors are probably the most used item in my upcycling toolkit. The same way I invest in good quality clothes that I know will last, I make sure I have scissors that will stick with me for the long haul.
Look for inspiration at your local ops store
Another great way to learn to sew is to buy simple clothing patterns from second-hand stores. If you are reworking a garment or adding a completely new element to an existing piece, knowing the construction of the garment is very important. These used clothing patterns can teach you how to cut and sew a garment from scratch, giving you the tools to rework your old pieces in a fresh and unique way.
If there’s nothing else to do with your clothes, consider turning them into household rags or stuffing for a DIY project.
I try to hold my clothes as long as possible, but sometimes they don’t hold anymore. When that happens, I cut up the scraps and turn them into household rags. When I do this I always make sure to finish the edges with a serger so they don’t fray everywhere, keeping them really functional. Once the rags are done, any little ragged pieces of fabric work great as cushion stuffing or twisted into t-shirt yarn.
Finally, recycling your wardrobe doesn’t necessarily require cutting, mending, or sewing if the clothes you own are in pristine condition. If you’re just stuck with a silhouette you don’t like, don’t limit yourself to how it’s supposed to be worn.
Button two different shirts together using their respective buttons and buttonholes, create a dress with scarves, tie them together and adjust the fabric to your body. Make your wardrobe fit you, not you. Think about how to love your clothes again before you clean out your closet.