Fair Fashion Center

Artisans, designers and engineers are gravitating toward a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to traditional manufacturing: upcycling. With the arrival of new and improved luxury textile technologies, designers are enabled to experiment with re-engineered performance textiles and versatile raw materials.

At the “Gardening the Trash” event Thursday in New York, NYCxDesign presented a selection of textiles and consumer products constructed entirely from trash. Held by the Glasgow Caledonian University Fair Fashion Center, the event showcased collaborative design projects created by Miniwiz, a Taipei-based upcycling solution company and Bonotto, a heritage textile manufacturing brand based in Italy.

Ranging from apparel, furniture and even eyewear made solely from cigarette butts, the objects and textiles are utilitarian, lightweight, durable and suitable for consumer use. Undoubtedly, the highlight of the exhibit is the 100 percent recycled, nonrepetitive, single-material tapestries, constructed entirely of plastic bottle waste. Under the artistic direction of Cristiano Seganfreddo and the team at Bonotto, the neon-colored panoramic tapestries blend intricate floral patterns in varying textures that resemble an abstract painting from afar.

Bonotto, led by brothers Lorenzo and Giovanni Bonotto, are proponents of “slow manufacturing,” a process that underscores artisanal skills often obscured by the automatic and digital processing of textiles. The firm recovered old looms and abandoned machinery to revive the mechanical process of textile creation, which allows for finer design and intricate craftsmanship.

Fair Fashion Center

Photo courtesy of the Fair Fashion Center. 

If Bonotto is the beauty behind the operation, Miniwiz is the brain. Miniwiz upcycles consumer trash and industrial waste to create sustainable “circular technology” consumer products. Its proprietary materials are used to manufacture goods from post-consumer plastic waste, packaging waste, food waste, electronic waste and now, fashion waste. Polyethylene terephthalate is extracted from waste to create fibers and can be re-recycled into furniture, felt and other applications. Johann Boedecker, a partner and chief executive officer, Europe of Miniwiz, told WWD, “I think rather than trying to push against our evil, greedy selves, we just have to kind of manage it intelligently.”

Championing the development of a “circular economy,” Gardening the Trash aims to revolutionize the fashion industry and a wholly flawed global waste management system. The United States alone produces 33 percent of the world’s solid waste and represents only 4.6 percent of the global population. And, 80 percent of U.S. products are used only one time and thrown away, according to Grow NYC.

Fair Fashion Center

Photo courtesy of the Fair Fashion Center. 

Cara Smyth, the GCNYC vice president and founding director of the GCU Fair Fashion Center, said, “The ability to reengineer luxury performance textiles has arrived. The juxtaposition of plastic bottle waste and the amazing colorful tapestry they created shatters the idea that recycled fabrics can’t have a luxury hand feel.” She added, “This installation will begin to revolutionize the way we think about recycled textiles and circular innovation. Waste truly can turn into worth.”

The exhibit is on display in New York through May 23.

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