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The Wonderful in Waste

Updated: Oct 31, 2018

Written by: Payton Marshall

The dictionary defines waste as “a material, substance, or by-product eliminated or discarded as no longer useful or required after the completion of a process.” The Sustainable Fashion Initiative magnifies the importance of reducing waste. But what if materials never got “discarded”? This would mean materials would continue to be of use. This idea of “waste” turned to “recycled fashion” would be eliminated. Some may ask why this change of name may be of importance, but for a wider audience to join in on this idea of reusing fabrics for fashion, it is.


Recycled fashion, some of which constitutes under the name of “vintage”, is appreciated by a select few. Yes, with current hipsters latching onto the vintage train, and influencers such as Emma Chamberlain who make thrifting seem cool, has resulted in a small increase in the recycling of fabrics due to millennial popularity.

However, most of society enjoys newly purchased things, with store bought aromas and price tags still attached. Some shoppers don’t dare to touch the clearance section, merely because other people have tried on the materials multiple times, leaving residue of makeup and deodorant.


I remember in middle school, purchasing my first Abercrombie T-shirt, with the moose symbol so overly enlarged; where the cologne was strong enough make a person pass out. However, there was an allure to the new purchase of buying that t-shirt, as there is for every middle school teen trying to fit in. But this attempt to fit in through the use of new clothes isn’t limited to middle school students, it extends to all ages and social groups. From the dad with the new non-sweat Nike golf shirt, to the suburban mom with Lululemon leggings, or the business intern purchasing a name brand suit to blend in with other coworkers. There’s a joy in buying something new, it’s exciting, it's special, it's part of what makes shopping an experience to look forward to, but most importantly it allows us to feel part of something, it gives us a sense of belonging.


However, there is an issue rising, where tons of clothing discarded as “waste” is heavily polluting the environment. According to Value Village, “more than 10.5 million tons of clothing ends up in the landfill” and recent statistics from Money Wizard state “65lbs of clothing are thrown away by the average family each year.” So how do we change this? It begins with the designers. I know it sounds silly, but the public cares about titles, people don’t want waste, they want new. If clothes never get “discarded” they never become waste, they’re merely just clothes. Nathan Haberthy, a 5th year design student at DAAP, discusses his recent collection that awed audiences in the recent RetroFittings Fashion Show. His collection featured models dressed in a mixture of textures that switched the gender roles in fashion, where he discovered a blend between both sexes.


“I believe experimenting with up-cycled garments is a lot different than starting from scratch. It takes a different mind set and design skill” said Haberthy. He discussed his process of turning his thrifted fabrics into the concluded runway pieces.

“Back in the studio I either draped with the clothes I bought or played around with taking them apart and rebuilding with different pieces. The experience was similar to how as a child I played with Legos. Building the collection brick by brick or in this instance sleeve or stitch detail,” concluded Haberthy.

Having attended the RetroFittings fashion show, I can say that Haberthy’s designs did not look like recycled fashion. They looked inventive, chic, a type of trendiness that has yet to be discovered. What if all fashion had this effect? Where fabrics were never “wasteful” or “recycled” but creatively innovate before a seam was ever stitched. What if my old Abercrombie T-shirt became part of the fabrication in one Ralph Lauren’s NYFW runway collections?

“Artists shape the world we see”

...a quote superiors often shared to me during youthful years. However, I believe designers not only shape our world, but they fashion our values. This is seen by students like Nathan Haberthy and works within the Sustainable Fashion Initiative.


How do we make the “old” something new? We never make it “old” to begin with.

For more on Nathan, check out his Instagram: @natehaberthy

Thank you Payton Marshall for a great article! Check her out on IG: @paytonmarshall

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