Friday, January 30th, 2015

Atlanta Fashion Students Create Couture from Recycled Plastics

One-of-a-Kind Designs to Take Center Stage at SPI’s NPE2015 Trade Show

By Kimberly Coghill, SPI, Director of Communications

As society becomes more environmentally conscious, the fashion industry – like the plastics manufacturing industry – is rethinking some of its recycling rituals to ensure that Mother Earth doesn’t feel negative effects from its presence. To illustrate some reuses of plastics materials, SPI entered a partnership with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Atlanta to create original clothing made from repurposed post-consumer plastic products.

Previously-used plastic shelf paper along with recovered chandelier pieces are the basis for a dress created by a SCAD student.

Previously-used plastic shelf paper along with recovered chandelier pieces are the basis for a dress created by a SCAD student.

“When SPI expanded its mission to include the pursuit of zero waste, the idea was to engage its members in addressing the issues of sustainability and recycling through sound solutions,” said Kim Holmes, SPI’s senior director of recycling and diversion. “The SCAD project is an example of SPI’s commitment to zero waste by giving plastic materials more than one life and challenging people’s thinking about what is possible with recycled materials.”

Holmes and Brad Williams, SPI’s director of trade show marketing and sales, advised the students on the use of appropriate materials while helping them locate products such as bubble wrap, plastic mesh, a parachute, vinyl, yoga mats, drawer liners, plastic foam and acrylic plastic sheets.

The result is a one-of-a-kind collection of high-fashion women’s formal wear and accessories that will premiere at the Pursuing Zero Waste Fashion Show during the opening ceremony of NPE2015, March 23, 2015 in Orlando, Fla. The outfits will be displayed throughout NPE2015 in SPI’s Zero Waste Zone.

Revelations about Plastic

Working with plastics was a lesson in itself, the SCAD students said, noting that plastic behaves favorably, but different than most fabrics. In its criteria guideline for the project, the group determined that all materials had to be recycled and if fabrics were used, they had to contain at least 25 percent post-consumer plastic.

A few students admitted to entering the project with preconceived notions that weren’t necessarily positive. They described plastics as “manmade, hard/rigid and inexpensive.” But after some research, they realized how integral plastics are to their daily lives. “From potato chip bags to hair accessories to sleeping bags and inflatable beds, it seems plastics are everywhere,” the group’s project report said, noting that as artists, they are advocates for their generation and have an opportunity to effect change. At the end of the project, students talked about their new understanding of plastics, whether recycled or re-used, as a viable material for design, and noted a desire to continue working with plastics in the future.

SPI couldn’t have scripted a better reaction, said Holmes. “SPI is driven to show that plastics are valuable, necessary materials that, if managed properly, have more than one life.”

SCAD 2 Student

Piece by piece, SCAD student Aida Bajramovic begins the process of creating an original design.

Latonya Lark, a SCAD sculpture major who usually works with wood and natural products, said she cringed slightly at the thought of using plastics for the design class. Nevertheless, she forged ahead with an open mind and was pleasantly surprised when she discovered that plastics are flexible, therefore easy to manipulate and mold, and very capable of producing attractive accessories with market appeal. After realizing the design freedom that plastic affords, Lark said she will likely continue to use plastics in her art going forward.

Classmate Aida Bajramovic agreed, using a shower curtain to create a beautiful gown that’s accessorized by acrylic prisms removed from an old chandelier. Meanwhile, Siobhan Mulhern transformed a military parachute manufactured in 1966 into a formal dress that’s lined with a military sleeping bag. She further demonstrated her talent by creating a second design using plastic bubble wrap and sliced playpen balls to make a cape that overlays a light blue bathing suit for a sporty look.

Some materials used for the project were donated by SPI via its members, while others were collected on the SCAD Atlanta campus and in second-hand and online stores.

The handmade garments displayed at NPE2015 will be based on designs selected by SPI from submissions by students at SCAD’s School of Fashion and will include 3D printed plastic accessories. Follow us on Twitter @SPI_4_Plastics and feel free to Tweet/Retweet using #SCADNPE.

 

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