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Design Label ADIFF Reimagines Fashion With Upcycling In New 'Fashion Cookbook'

Photos from Adiff's "Open Source Fashion Cookbook" (Emanuel Hahn)
Photos from Adiff's "Open Source Fashion Cookbook" (Emanuel Hahn)

Design label ADIFF is cooking up innovative solutions to fashion’s waste problem.

The woman-founded label’s new book, “The Open Source Fashion Cookbook,” offers recipes and tips for DIY sustainable designs. The recipes provide directions for creating everything from a shirt dress comprised of button-downs to a hat made from an umbrella.

The amount of clothing Americans throw away every year has doubled in the last 20 years — from 7 million to 14 million tons, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

ADIFF co-founder Angela Luna believes that fashion should be socially responsible. In 2016, Luna, then a senior at Parsons School of Design, told Here & Now about a coat she created that turns into a tent for unhoused people. The garment is now a centerpiece at ADIFF.

“I originally started ADIFF with this general idea that fashion can do more,” she says. “Since 2016, my goal has just been evolving that idea and transitioning that from just, you know, a jacket that can turn into a tent into really questioning the entire fashion industry as a whole and how we can actually put solutions into practice.”

During the nationwide protests against police brutality last summer, Luna reflected on the roles of fashion plays in the world, especially within systemic racism, and how to make sustainable fashion more accessible. Instead of eating at restaurants during the pandemic, she realized cooking at home was healthier and more affordable — and fashion could be the same way.

Fast fashion — quickly and cheaply produced items that mimic the latest runway styles — is “bad for the planet, bad for people, bad for everything,” she says. People often discard fast fashion pieces after only a handful of wears.

People who want to learn to cook look up recipes online, and Luna thought that idea could apply to fashion to help educate people on how to better care for clothing and create pieces themselves.

ADIFF asked designers to contribute to the book and most of them were receptive, says co-founder Loulwa Al Saad.

“We envision this as a comprehensive industrial shift,” she says, “so it can’t all just end with us.”

The ADIFF team wanted to create garnets that people could make from items in their homes instead of relying on traditional fashion supply stores, Luna says.

One garment featured in the book is a chest harness with a waterproof hood made from a shower curtain. Materials such as t-shirts, jeans, blankets, bedsheets and broken umbrellas are also utilized throughout the book.

ADIFF defines upcycling as “the use of existing materials, often materials to be discarded, to create new items,” Al Saad says.

“This means that you’re not going to the fabric store to buy brand new fabric that was produced as a textile at the textile mill,” she says, “but leveraging existing things as the raw material to create something new.”

The concept of people making their own close isn’t new, though it sounds novel in the age of fast fashion, Al Saad says. People used to make, cherish and respect their clothing, Luna adds, and pieces lasted for years.

In “The Open Source Fashion Cookbook,” ADIFF wanted to “provide an educational tool” that gives consumers “behind the seams” insight into the fashion industry, Luna says.

To educate customers, ADIFF asked experts in the sustainable fashion space to submit essays on ethics and inclusivity in the industry, Al Saad says. Journalist Sophia Lee’s essay explains that consumers need to shop less and use items they already own to tackle the problem of textile waste.

Al Saad’s favorite piece in the book is the assembly shirt dress made from two button-down shirts — the easiest look in the book without any sewing. And for Luna, it’s a jacket made from two woven blankets that were laying around her apartment.

“Honestly, I wear this jacket out in the city all the time,” she says. “And I tell you, I’ve never gotten so many compliments on a piece of my life.”

Marcelle Hutchins produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd MundtAllison Hagan adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.