TO UP-CYCLE WE GO!

So the environmental movement is certainly growing in Trinidad and Tobago and by extension the Caribbean which is a fantastic thing. From the ban on plastic bags in Antigua to a plan to phase out Styrofoam use in Tobago, we are certainly heading in the right direction.

But have there been any other creative avenues for the use of recycled materials? Yes and the method of upcycling is one way that this can be done. According to Hipcycle.org, Upcycling is the process of converting old or discarded materials into something useful and often beautiful, and the environmental benefits of upcycling are HUGE! From diverting large amounts of waste material from the landfill, it also reduces the dependency on raw or virgin material, which means a reduction in air pollution, water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and that’s just the start.

So that leaves fashion, right? The fact remains that the use of recycled materials in fashion designs and sustainable fashion is a sector that we’ve been seeing making a lot of moves even right here in Trinidad and Tobago. I have had the pleasure to meet multiple designers, have worn some of the fashions myself and the opportunity to interview Ms. Sandra Carr, Head of Department of Fashion Design at the University of Trinidad and Tobago for this article.

Interview:

Q. How long has the fashion programme been in existence?

A. The Fashion Programme has been established since 2008

Q. When did you introduce the concept of upcycling fashion to the students? And what was the rationale behind it?

A. The upcycling has always been part of the foundation of the academy. The rationale was to give students an opportunity to design and create fashion accessories and clothing with little expense and also to create something that is sustainable and still an opportunity to earn a viable income.

Q. How receptive were the students to the concept?

A. The students loved the idea and have done great projects. Upcycling has always been the ethos of the fashion academy.

Q. What are some of the materials that have been used?

A. Paper, wood, plastic, bones, shells, wire, CDs, seeds, coconut, calabash, tin can etc

Q. What do you think is the future of upcycled fashion?

A. I think it has a great future as more designers are looking for ways to reduce waste, prevent less pollution to the environment and create a cleaner future. A way of being more socially responsible. The academy is also looking at sustainable fibres in both Pineapple and Banana fibres.

Q. Have you guys been featured or attended any fashion events whether locally or abroad or have been in fashion magazines?

A. There are too many to enumerate. We have been in every local newspaper and have been featured in local and international fashion magazines. We have also been featured on many online magazines.

We have represented T&T at Carifesta XI in 2013 and Carifesta XII in 2017. We have done fashion events in Jamaica, Suriname, Guadeloupe, Barbados and Dominica.

We have also done fashion weeks in New York, London, Las Vegas, West Canada and Ottawa. In Aug 2017 CAFD participated in the 150th anniversary of Canada at an event called "Trinbago Day". We broke the record as the event with the most attendees in Canada as over 9,400 people came.

So it’s safe to say that I cannot wait for an Upcycled Fashion Week where every single design utilises recycled materials. Now that’s a show I would like to see :-)

Photos courtesy: UTT Department of Fashion Design.

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