Old threads make catwalk comeback

  • 2007-09-19
  • By Joel Alas

WASTE NOT: At her Sept. 23 show, designer Reet Aus will unveil the latest in clothes made from recycled materials.

TALLINN - Fancy wearing a vest made from an old army sleeping bag? Or perhaps a dress of patched-together fabric offcuts?
They might sound like the reject items from a high school sewing class, but on Sept. 23 such recycled fashion becomes haute couture.
One of Estonia's top designers, Reet Aus, will unveil the latest collection of her innovative label Re Use.
As the name suggests, Re Use is all about giving new life to discarded fabrics. For Aus, it's about more than just funky fashion. It's about making the fashion industry more environmentally friendly.

Fittingly, the fashion show will take place in a building that is itself being recycled 's  Tallinn's old central heating plant, renovated to become an "arts incubator," whatever that means.
Aus launched her brave label over a year ago, teaming up with Tallinn's main second-hand clothing center to find choice pieces of unwanted fabric.
"The problem is that people buy so many new things, but these new labels have such low quality that people can't wear them for more than two or three months, then they throw them away," Aus says.
She calls this style of clothes production "fast fashion," which is akin to fast food 's  cheap, wasteful and unhealthy. She singles out brands such as H&M, Zara and Mango as among the worst offenders.
It's impressive to see what she is able to do with throwaway fabrics. On the rack, her items are funky and eye-catching. Unlike a lot of experimental fashion items, which tend to look like futuristic art installations, her works are entirely wearable.

"It's nice to make some art from these old things, but the bigger challenge was to make a fashion brand, and one that uses only environmentally-friendly production systems.
"The fashion and textile industry are some of the most damaging industries in the world. They use pesticides to grow raw material, the dying process is poisoning. And the worst thing is so many clothes end up in garbage dumps without being sold. They are made from such bad materials that they don't biodegrade, they stay there for 200 years.
"Everyday buyers don't know the history of the clothes they buy, and designers don't think about the future at all. The fashion industry is so fast, new collections come out after two weeks. Ten years ago, new collections came out four times a year."

Reet has also worked with the Estonian Army to recycle old uniforms and items (such as the aforementioned sleeping bag). But sadly the army decided to terminate this cooperation 's it now destroys its old fabrics.
On Sept. 23 Reet will unveil her new collection, which she describes as a "double Re Use" 's  it's made from unsold items from the previous Re Use collections.
Her show will be more than just a catwalk presentation. Musicians and actors will take part to make an experimental mishmash of sights and sounds.

It will take place in Kultuurikatel, the city's former heating plant, which has sat vacant on the harbor-side fringe of the Old Town for nearly two decades. The building's new directors colorfully describe it as an "old industrial wasteland." It is now being slowly renovated to house artist studios and performance spaces.
Kultuurikatel has thrown open its doors this month with a series of events and performances, and is encouraging members of the public with artistic ideas to come forward and use the space as a development site. It all sounds nice on paper. Let's hope it actually becomes a dynamic culture site, and not another exclusive and underused arts facility.

Re Use Fashion Concert
Sept. 23, 21:00
Kultuurikatel, Pohja pst. 27a-35