Even amongst the world’s most inventive runways, recycled garments remain rare.
In a pioneering venture in Egypt, Darb1718 invited 16 young designers to take part in a two-month workshop administered by Spanish artist and Cairo resident Ana Maria Seco.
What was spurred by an eco-friendly outlook resulted in eight collections of designs weaved from a variety of bizarre materials, ranging from plastic bags and newspapers to shower curtains and car interiors.
Last Saturday, models strutted down Darb’s open air runway to a 500-some audience hungry for innovative style.
Nothing of this trend is usual, but the inimitable creations blend both hip and classic looks, mirroring the versatility of the participants, none of whom but one holds a degree in fashion design.
On the choice of recycled garments, Seco tells Daily News Egypt it is a reflection of her environmental beliefs.
“It’s a mix between my willingness to help young designers to implement their knowledge in the field of fashion and design, and my environmental ideas,” she said.
While Seco has 25 years of experience in fashion design, a career that has led her to work in New York, Ethiopia and Vietnam, Cairo was her first experience in teaching how to refashion unusual materials.
“When you transform something, no one could tell that it is being reused,” she said.
Participants were guided through how plastic can be manipulated, glazing paper to allow for it to be washed, patch working, fabric painting and tie die.
“During the workshop, the participants learned that making recycled garments is not only for the catwalk, but that the garments are doable and wearable,” explained Seco, adding that all produces are also washable.
Prior to the workshop, participants were instructed to collect garbage from their homes, including water bottles, yogurt cup and plastic bags. In addition, a call for old clothes by Darb 1718 constituted the fabrics of the collection.
Instead of setting a theme for the show, Seco ushered her participants to translate the works of visual artists into fashion.
“I chose artists whose works can be easily translated into fashion,” she said, the focus being on Spanish artists.
From gowns and long puffed skirts to shredded minis and arm bands, everything seems possible when you’re playing around with garbage.
Noha Hesham, a graduate of fine arts, Helwan University, and one of the participants, interpreted the works of Spanish painter and printmaker Fransisco Goya.
“I played on both his phases, the romantic one and the dark one,” explained Hesham, whose chief materials were fabric and plastic.
Inspired by both Goya’s imaginative and realistic works, Hesham chose to portray reality using fabrics and imagination using plastic bags.
“No one would think of using them,” she said about her white floral gown. Each flower was coiled, stitched and puffed up using tulle in a manner reminiscent of Spanish royalty.
Meanwhile, Eslam Hamed, Seco’s assistant and contributing designer, opted for a more funked up look, reinterpreting the works of Antonio Saura.
His designs relied on denim and silver spray paints, most noticeable for their use of metal keys and long chains.
“No one imagines that this is made out of garbage,” he said.
The runway also showcased pieces inspired by Catalan painter Antoni Tapies, Diego Velázquez, architect Antonio Gaudi and Pablo Picasso.
It’s not often that fashonistas and environmentalists share a common passion, but participants in the show vow to make that connection.
“I hope that people become more environmentally-conscious,” said Seco.
Similarly, Hamed hopes that the success of this show can lead Egyptians to start thinking about the concept of recycling.
“I hope that it opens the door [to recycling]. We did it in fashion, but I hope people adopt it in different areas. It’s just a matter of perspective,” he said.
Designer Sherine Abdel Rasoul reinterprets the work of Velasquez. (Photo by Mohamed H. Mahmoud)
Designer Mona Lotfi takes inspiration from Gaudi to make this dress and bustier accessory. (Photo by Mohamed H. Mahmoud)