Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Atlanta Fashion Students Create Couture From Recycled Plastics

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

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, thanks to SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association’s partnership with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Atlanta. Together, industry and academia create clothing worthy of Vogue and Bazaar with a twist – that is, the designs will be made from repurposed plastic products and resin-based fabrics made from post-consumer recycled content.

Savannah College of Art and Design students who are working with SPI to create high-fashion designs made from repurposed post-consumer plastics.

Savannah College of Art and Design students who are working with SPI to create high-fashion designs made from repurposed post-consumer plastics.

Kim Holmes, SPI’s recycling expert, is advising the students about the use of appropriate materials as well as helping the designers locate the recycled materials, which include bubble wrap, plastic bags, a parachute, bicycle tire inner tubes, vinyl, Frisbees and many, many yoga mats (a student suggested cutting up yoga mats for pockets and other textured designs). Each one-of-a-kind design will premiere during the opening ceremony at NPE2015 March 23-27, 2015, in Orlando, Fla., and will be displayed throughout the show in SPI’s Zero Waste Zone.

“In 2012, 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 Holmes. “The SCAD project demonstrates SPI’s commitment to zero waste by giving plastic materials more than one life.”

“Plastics manufacturing professionals who attend SPI’s international trade show are likely to be surprised at the level of creativity students are using to transform recovered plastics materials into fashionable clothing,” Holmes said. In a recent video conference with Holmes, nine SCAD students used PowerPoint slides to present draft sketches of the designs, which will be accompanied by accessories like jewelry and hats. The students described the recovered plastics they intend to use along with a plan to collect the materials.

As a group, the SCAD students have been working on campus since mid-September to collect certain plastic items such as plastic forks, spoons, bags and cups. Beyond campus searches, they have perused the likes of ebay, second-hand shops and their own homes for a used parachute, playpen plastic balls and parlor beads. One student mentioned rummaging through her grandmother’s house for plastic doilies.

“There’s no end to the imagination the SCAD students use in their designs,” Holmes added.

Student Aida Bajramovic, a refuge from Bosnia, “wants to create something beautiful out of something ugly and harsh.” For inspiration, she offered a photograph from the war which shows a beautifully dressed Bosnian woman against the backdrop of a warzone to show contrast. As Bajramovic described, “The strength is evident as this lovely woman is determined to carry on life despite the condition surrounding her.”

Bajramovic’s sketch illustrated a gown with white plastic mesh around the waist to represent a belt and a flying disc as a head accessory.

Classmate Latonya Lark, a self-described “natural girl,” is not accustomed to working with plastics, yet she’s found that the materials are forgiving and lend themselves to different shapes and uses. Along with her peers, she presented the idea of melting plastic spoons together to create flowered accessories, among other interesting uses of plastics materials. Lark, a sculpture major, will experiment with fosshape, polystrol and wonderflex to give her recycled fashion structure.


A SCAD student creatively positions a strip of post-consumer plastic.

Meanwhile, and Siobhan Mulhern is weighing the use of plastic shopping bags and playpen plastic balls as another student talked about using pieces of an old chandelier to add texture to her designs.

According to Holmes, each student will create sketches and a design plan for two outfits during the 10-week course. SPI expects the excitement and interest associated with this program will showcase another alternative use of plastic materials. Follow us on Twitter at SPI_4_Plastics and feel free to Tweet/Retweet using #SCADNPE.

We look forward to seeing the student’s final designs in Orlando.  To view our video click here.

Leave a Comment