SHANGHAI–A labor of love for Chinese designer Zhang Na, Reclothing Bank takes recycled clothing to fashionable heights.
Since 2011, Zhang has been working on Reclothing Bank and in recent years the concept has mushroomed to basic, ready-to-wear as well as custom lines – available through local multi-brand retailers and Fake Natoo’s WeChat store. Zhang is best known in China as the designer of the Fake Natoo brand.
On Wednesday, the brand held its first fashion show, with 80 looks paraded on a makeshift catwalk in the courtyard of a dilapidated laneway in Shanghai’s downtown Jing’An District. The location was appropriate as it too is about to be recycled, in the near future it will be completely renovated to become a trendy eating and drinking enclave.
Reclothing Bank sees old garments either upcycled into new designs, as with a pinstriped business shirt reimagined as a voluminous coverall with buttons down the back, or various pieces brought together, as in a long coat made up of many patches of different washes of denim.
According to Zhang, it took her almost six years to feel ready to hold a show because this is how long it’s taken her to work out an integrated design and production process to be able to make Reclothing Bank’s clothing available to scale.
In China, where environmental sustainability continues to be a major talking point at every level of society – from the central government to ordinary people going about their business in smog-choked cities – the green angle is seen as a plus.
An added complication for Zhang and her Reclothing Bank brand, however, is the reticence of Chinese people to wear second-hand or vintage items because of a cultural superstition about the spirit and luck of the previous owners staying in the garments. Rather than fighting this traditional idea, Zhang tried to embrace and re-contextualize it to make people more comfortable.
“Reclothing Bank is about more than environmental protection, it provides another choice in the way we treat and look at the past,” she said, adding that the brand has partnered with disinfecting factories to reassure consumers about quality and cleanliness.
“Now, we can make the recycling materials into new fabrics and also make the remade fabrics and stock fabrics into new garments. I believe that the step of disinfecting and cleaning is really necessary,” Zhang said.
“As long as we get these messages across, I believe that more and more people will be willing to accepted remade clothing. As designers, isn’t our responsibility to lead the public opinion, rather than be followers?”
Reclothing Bank has also partnered with local NGOs and 1 percent of proceeds from sales go directly to environmental protection organizations, with donations tracked and published on the Reclothing Bank website.