Each season, one of "Project Runway"’s most watched episodes is the unconventional challenge, where designers create couture looks out of anything from candy, party favors or basic household items.
While viewers at home relish at Nina Garcia’s and the rest of the judging panel’s pursed-lip critiques, upstart fashion entrepreneurs are capitalizing on making something out of nothing -- relying on discarded materials to manufacture socially responsible products that also happen to be fashion forward.
This month, EDGE takes a look at three brands that are making an impact both on and off the runway.
A one-stop shop to discover brands that focus on community development, Enrou partners with social enterprises around the world to offer a curated collection of products that not only look good but also offer economic opportunities, while opening new routes of global exchange. Some of their most interesting brands include:
Made from the toquilla plant (a palm-like plant that is grown only in Ecuador), these modern blake- and fedora-style hats will have heads turning at your next beach visit. To make them, the plants are collected, cut, boiled into straw, hand-woven, then shaped and accessorized. In addition to providing fair-wage and fair-trade opportunities for the weavers and hat finishers of Sigsig, Ecuador Greenpacha additionally donates 2 percent of sales to the community.
The Base Project Bracelets
The artisans from the Himba and Herero tribes in Namibia, Africa, make these bracelets from discarded PVC water pipe, even though they look like they could be wood or horn. The bracelets get their coloring from the sun and rich soil. Because they are made from recycled plastic, the upcycled bracelets are environmentally friendly and lightweight.
Remade by CanvasPop
The crafty folks at CanvasPop, a web-based company that converts photos into printed canvas art, is now upcycling unusable canvas to create wallets that pop with bold graphics. Wallets are constructed by EcoEquitable Inc., a nonprofit that provides employment and skill development to immigrant and underemployed women.
"Featured Art" wallets showcases selected photographers and artists, or you can choose the "Surprise Me" option, which uses discarded canvases from client orders and offers one-of-a-kind designs. All proceeds are donated to charity: water.
While its name may sound like a pharmaceutical company, Pelcor’s history as a cork factory dates back more than 30 years. In 2003 Sandra Correia, granddaughter of the founder, began experimenting with using cork skin as a sustainable accessory. Cork trees, which thrive in the Mediterranean, are the only trees whose bark regenerates after each harvest.
After the harvesting process, the cork is left to dry in the meadow. Raw planks of cork are then boiled, making them more elastic and easier to flatten, after which they are sorted by thickness and quality. Pelcor’s line of products includes weekender and duffel bags, briefcases and a spectacular umbrella that is sure to catch eyes as well as deflect rain.