Happy International Recycling Day everyone! In honour of today, and in the spirit of zero waste, I sat down with London fashion designer and upcycling extraordinaire. Brandy Nicole Easter. Brandy’s designs incorporate a variety of sustainable reclaimed materials from a variety of sources, from people she knows to vintage retailers, while reusing and recycling are core elements of her creations. As it says on her website ‘When garments or other products are worn out or broken, Brandy takes the time to mend everything she can, giving them a longer life.’ How great is that! You can find out more of what she had to say below…
Tell me about yourself
Well I’ll start chronologically, I spent the first nine years of my life growing up in Centerville, Ohio and then moved to Phoenix, Arizona for another 9 years until I moved to London to study at Central Saint Martins. Growing up I was very lucky to be in a household of equally creative and academic family and of course, cats! I was a kind of weird girl who wore capes and pink lace dresses to school and wanted to be a surgeon, until I realised the responsibility was too much for me. Now I am more interested in fixing/making clothes, cycling, coding, cats, and reading about mushrooms/mycoremediation!
How did you get into fashion?
I think two things happened to me that led me in the direction of fashion. Firstly, after drawing girls with funny clothes most of my life, a tutor from FIDM(Fashion Insitute of Design and Merchandising) came to my school and introduced me to the idea that designing clothes could be a career. Secondly, during my studies in high school (painting, sculpture, calculus, life drawing, anatomy, etc.) I started to understand that what I wanted to do was something that combined academics and creativity. I felt that fashion seemed to embody both elements and I also liked the idea that I could create something useful whereas fine art studies left me wondering where would my art end up and would people really use it? So when I graduated high school I moved to London to study Fashion Design Womenswear at Central Saint Martins.
Some of Brandy’s upcycled designs
Without realising it I used to upcycle loads of my clothes, accessories, and use my grandma’s old fabrics when I was a teenager. It wasn’t until I was 19 and interning for Ada Zandition that I discovered fashion could be ‘sustainable’ or created from reclaimed materials. Throughout university I continued to research into recycled fashion and ended up interning for Lu Flux who taught me a lot about upcycled fashion. This prepared me for one of my first jobs after graduating, designing for the brand From Somewhere.Why do you think people should care about ethical fashion?
I wrote in my journal a while ago ‘I will never understand why someone thinks their need to buy is greater than someone else’s life’. Perhaps it is a bit dramatic especially as not everyone knows how their products are made (although I believe people should know and understand so that they value their belongings more), but I think people should care about ethical fashion because of the huge amount of social and environmental injustices that the fashion industry creates. If everyone could consider their consumption more by questioning brands, buying less, and buying better we would be able to start to reverse these injustices.
What are your top tips for people just starting out with sustainable fashion?
I think this will take a lot of will power but here goes: 1. Ask yourself if you really need it, do you LOVE it, and will you wear it over and over again. 2. Mend clothes before buying new ones and recycling the old garment. 3. Buy from charity shops or second hand/retro boutiques, old clothes are much more unique and are a lot more ethical than buying new.
What sustainable products/companies are you most excited about in fashion at the moment?
I really love this Japanese brands called ‘southpaw’ by NPC Cathy (found on Instagram @southpawcathy) and Nusumigui (@yuu00nusumigui). I like their more ‘laid back’ approach to mix-matching and making. Their work is really fun and joyful, I think clothes should put a smile on faces! I also really love Plastic Seconds (London) and Precious Plastic (Holland).
Image from Nusumigui’s Instagram page
Probably my ‘perfect skirt’ which is a wrap around adjustable skirt with deep pockets made from vintage fabric I got in America. I’ve actually made three!
Any upcycling top tips?
Have fun, don’t make more waste than before, and think about how your fabrics will act when they are put together!