Recycled Couture at NY Fashion Week

Goodlifer: Recycled Couture at NY Fashion Week

It’s the time of teetering heels again. Uncomfortable, spectacular footwear takes over the streets as the Bryant Park tents fill with fashion’s A-listers for the last time. Meanwhile The GreenShows, this year housed at 311 E 11: Village Green, turns the spotlight to sustainably inclined designers. Opening night Gary Harvey, former Creative Director of Levi Strauss, sent spectacular recycled couture creations down the runway.

Gary Harvey's denim dress: 42 pairs of Levi 501's in various shades of indigo, cut up and reconstructed to make a tiered ball gown with a corset waist. Photos by Johanna Björk.

Gary Harvey’s denim dress: 42 pairs of Levi 501’s in various shades of indigo, cut up and reconstructed to make a tiered ball gown with a corset waist.

Gary Harvey's baseball puffball dress, made from 26 nylon baseball jackets, ruched and attached to a striped rib corset, worn over a baseball jacket with socks made from the rib cuffs. Photos by Johanna Björk.

Gary Harvey’s baseball puffball dress, made from 26 nylon baseball jackets, ruched and attached to a striped rib corset, worn over a baseball jacket with socks made from the rib cuffs.

Gary Harvey's vintage silk chiffon dress. Photos by Johanna Björk.

Gary Harvey’s vintage silk chiffon dress.

The billowing gowns were made from old jeans in different shades of denim (Levi 501’s of course), blouses, men’s shirts, military uniforms, logo T-shirts, laundry bags, baseball jackets, cardboard packaging, trench coats and scarves. The standout piece was a dress made out of 30 copies of the Financial Times; it served as a poignant reminder of how recycling will (must) serve an important part in our new financial climate. It is beautiful and disturbing at the same time, as is the quirky laundry bag dress. At least for New Yorkers, who have seen homeless people or scrappy street vendors carrying all their worldly possessions in these distinctly patterned red-white-and-blue checkered plastic vessels — icons of the streets. Now, Louis Vuitton’s leather version was far more sinister — but that was pre-recession-era irony.

Gary Harvey's Weleda packaging dress and newspaper dress, made from 30 copies of the Financial Times. Photo by Johanna Björk.

Gary Harvey’s Weleda packaging dress and newspaper dress, made from 30 copies of the Financial Times.

Gary Harvey's laundry bag dress, made from 21 checked=

What is a more sentimental object than the old T-shirt? We remember who gave them to us, where we bought them, when we wore them… and tend to have a hard time letting go. Harvey shows two ways they could be upcycled into something that’s way more of a statement, without loosing any of the sentimental value. (If you’re not into gowns, you can always have the old tees made into a quilt.) Harvey’s beautifully crafted recycled couture gowns are commentaries on the wastefulness of modern-day society. They encourage us to look a little deeper and think twice before discarding anything. As he so skillfully shows us, anything can be given a glorious second life.

Gary Harvey's T-shirt dresses, the white one made from tees donated by Katherine Hamnett and the black one from 37 black logo tees. Photos by Johanna Björk.

Gary Harvey’s T-shirt dresses, the white one made from tees donated by Katherine Hamnett and the black one from 37 black logo tees.

Gary Harvey's military dress, made from 21 army jackets in various shades of green and camouflage, reconstructed into a "fishtail" cocktail dress. Photos by Johanna Björk.

Gary Harvey’s military dress, made from 21 army jackets in various shades of green and camouflage, reconstructed into a “fishtail” cocktail dress.

Gary Harvey's wedding dress, made from old wedding dresses. Maybe lots of bad luck combined make for really good luck? Photos by Johanna Björk.

Gary Harvey’s wedding dress, made from old wedding dresses. Maybe lots of bad luck combined make for really good luck?

Gary Harvey's Mac dress, made from 18 trench coats attached to a "Burberry" check corset, worn with a cropped "Burberry" Mac. Photos by Johanna Björk.

Gary Harvey’s Mac dress, made from 18 trench coats attached to a “Burberry” check corset, worn with a cropped “Burberry” Mac.

Glorious turned into fierce and fabulous as Joann Berman‘s motley crew of models took to the runway. The feeling was very 80s NYC disco; this line from Berman’s bio offers some explanation: “She spent her nights at Club 57, danceteria and the MUDD club and played synthesizer in Patti Paladins band at CBGBs and Max’s Kansas City. In 1979, she ran away to London to become a punk rock star and sewed clothes for the Only Ones and Steve Strange and put herself through St. Martin by selling ice cream and bondage trousers.” There were no bondage trousers on this runway, but plenty of neon, feathers, shine and glitter, and a pair of gray lederhosen. These are clothes to have fun in, crazy lewd fun. It’s eco fashion as far away from hemp and muslin as can be.

Recycled couture by Joann Berman. Photos by Johanna Björk.

Recycled couture by Joann Berman. Photos by Johanna Björk.

Recycled couture by Joann Berman. Photos by Johanna Björk.

Recycled couture by Joann Berman. Photos by Johanna Björk.

Recycled couture by Joann Berman.

Berman’s creations second Gary Harvey’s notion that upcycled fashion is fun, although the two designers are at opposite ends of the fashion spectrum. Also liberating is that there is a distinct DIY-vibe to both lines, making this kind of high fashion attainable for even the poorest aspiring fashionistas — as long as you have scissors, thread, imagination, and a few bucks to spend at Goodwill.

Photos by Johanna Björk. See more photos from The GreenShows here.

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
2 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. What creative recycled designs! It’s always neat to see how people think about re-using their old clothing to create something fresh and new. This is a step beyond that!

  2. creating new fashion design using recycled things are great. i just recently found out a site the offers handmade bags from scrap,wrappers and anything that are recycled. do check it out at
    http://www.thehandbagcloset.com/

    Lets Go for Eco Fasion!

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