Dutch designer Ronald van der Kemp sees striking similarities between the practice of couture and giving a second life to used fabrics.

“When we use upcycled fabrics, like these printed mousselines that we got from the closing sale of a former French mill, we only have about 10 or 20 meters of them,” the designer backstage at his spring 2019 demi-couture show. “I think it’s great because couture is all about exclusivity. If someone else wants the dress, we’ll have to change the print. Everything is very limited edition.”

As a result, it was impossible to pin down an overall theme for the 100 percent upcycled collection. A piece of fabric destined to be turned into a lampshade was sculpted into an exotic evening dress with a spray of pleats at the front. An antique lace bedcover got its 15 minutes of fame, reincarnated into the Sixties cape that closed the show.

Yarns delivered by a sustainable factory in India were a little too “sustainable-looking,” according to the designer, who chose to weave leftover scraps of fabric into a matching top and skirt. Van der Kemp also debuted his first line of footwear — boots of varying height entirely created from deadstock material.

Models wore faux mohawks and sunglasses made from leftover scraps of buffalo leather. Denim stirrup jeans, a chic belted wool dress, a draped caftan and a gold leather maxi gown all spelled out the same message: sustainability and glamour can go hand in hand. It’s just up to fashion designers to make good use of his or her imagination.

“The focus is always on fast fashion, but I think high fashion should also take a good look at itself,” said van der Kemp, who took his bow in a shell suit created in collaboration with Amsterdam label Filling Pieces. “There is already so much beauty in the world that we could use. And even if things aren’t so beautiful, like the leftover fabric that we throw away, that’s where our creativity needs to go. That way clothes have a soul, people get attached to them and don’t throw them away.”

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