LONDON — Brand and retail consultant Yasmin Sewell believes it’s time to let go of the “stagnant energy” in clothes, and has come up with an upcycling initiative she believes will do just that.
Sewell has teamed with seven fashion students from the University of Westminster, and mentored them through the design process as part of her initiative, called Rechargex7.
The students had the opportunity to reimagine everything from a Celine coat to a Comme des Garçons blouse to pieces from Sewell’s own private collection. They spliced, diced and reconfigured the garments, and their creations will launch on Friday at Selfridges.
In addition to rethinking the design of the old clothing, the students worked on a spiritual level, “refreshing the energy” of the garment with healing techniques including mantras, crystals and moon cycles.
Energy and spirituality are two words rarely used in fashion, but Sewell believes it’s the way forward.
“Each designer worked with a different form of energy clearing and channelling. Most of the students immediately had a clear idea as to how to do this. It’s something they already believed in, it’s more accepted in this newer generation,” said Sewell.
“Georgia [Wilson] knew straight away that she wanted to work with moon cycles, Catherine [Hudson] with crystals and Wes [Stuart Hartwell] with mantras. In some cases we just had to delve into their process and realize it was already happening subconsciously…”
Sewell believes this approach comes naturally to young students, who are more concerned with the industry’s environmental impact than with creating more things.
“This generation looks at consuming completely differently to the way I did as I was growing up, and through my many years in fashion. They are quite simply more conscious, in every way,” she noted, adding that the students made her aware of reconfiguring and redesign techniques.
Looking ahead, Sewell thinks upcycled collections will eventually replace new ones. For one, “it feels aesthetically right” and there’s also a copious amount of deadstock to regenerate.
“This is how craftsmanship and handwork can make a comeback,” added Sewell.
She argues that the big fashion players need to join in and offer their platforms and old stock to the future generation of designers.
Sewell said industry players need to take more risks, and that retailers and brands should follow the example of Selfridges, which has made a big commitment to sustainability this year with its Project Earth.
“Our kind of project could be done on a much bigger scale, and with so many brands. It would be wonderful to see some of the students take on more projects from this.”
Sewell believes the industry needs to be recharged, to move beyond surface-level appearances and embrace the deeper impact of clothing.
“We’re at the beginning of a new age and a new era. I don’t think many of us can say that in our careers, or even lives, we’ve seen this kind of rapid transformation. The emotional part of what we do in the fashion industry, as creatives or brands, is not to be underestimated — and it’s all about energy.
“How we connect, whether digitally or physically, is also all about energy. What do you feel when you walk into a store now? What goes through you when you look at a web site, or a video? The words [brands] use, the videos they play, images they show, how do they make you feel? How does that impact our body and being? If it makes you feel good, it’s working, it’s healing in some way. Even the stuff that seems superficial can heal. It’s not to be underestimated: Everything is energy.”
All sales will go directly to the fashion students involved, with prices ranging from 150 pounds to 1,200 pounds.