Marie-Eve Lecavalier weaved leftover scraps of leather to create this dress.

For Marie-Ève Lecavalier, upcycling gradually transformed from a childhood practice into a true vocation. “I come from the suburbs of Montreal and I often had to start with recycled clothing to get the style that I wanted,” said the Canadian designer, who studied at HEAD fashion school in Geneva. “It became a personal ambition: As part of a new generation of designers, we need to find solutions and rely as much as possible on what already exists.”

Lecavalier’s graduate collection, which featured silhouettes made of upcycled leather and denim, won the Chloé Prize at this year’s edition of the Festival d’Hyères. The designer collaborated with a leather factory in Poland that gave her all its leather scraps, which she then weaved to create a crochet-like aspect enabling her to make use of even the shorter leftover scraps. Now, as the designer is gearing up to the launch of her namesake label in January 2019, she is looking to work with local tanneries to help them dispose of their textile waste.

Key sustainability achievement of 2018: Lecavalier has just entered a partnership with Canadian textile recycling plant Certex to have exclusive access to denim donations. “I wasn’t satisfied with the denim I found on the market, it had too much stretch in it,” Lecavalier explained. “So I turned to vintage denim, which has the right rigidity, that I cut up and reused in my designs.”

Sustainability target for 2019: She will present her first collection during Paris Fashion Week next March. Everything will be made near Montreal, where she is based. For the moment, only the leather and denim are upcycled, but Lecavalier’s main ambition is to promote locally made fashion. “I don’t understand why luxury garments should automatically be made in Italy. It’s the other side of the world for me. My studio is based in Montreal, the fabrics are sourced locally and are turned into clothes in a Quebec-based factory. There is less transport and a smaller impact on the environment. As designers, we need to find local solutions.”

Third-party plaudits: As well as winning the Chloé Prize at Hyères, Lecavalier’s graduate collection got an honorable mention from the jury, which included designers Haider Ackermann and Christelle Kocher.

Biggest challenge: “We need to change our mind-set as designers, to be creative with what we already have and realize that luxury garments can also be achieved with recycled fabrics. I keep everything and find a way to reuse things. If you order something and it doesn’t come in the right color, it’s not a problem. Don’t throw it away. Mistakes can actually fuel creativity.”

If you could wave a magic wand: “I would eradicate the monster that is fast fashion. The production volumes are truly tragic. We don’t need five more T-shirts. It makes no sense to produce so much clothing, it should be illegal. The state should impose quotas.”

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