Upcycling project

Left to right: Kevin Mboma, a freshman from Olathe, and sophomore Jason Fondaw model some of the clothes they made for an upcycled garment project in their fundamentals of fibers class.

Think about the unworn items in your closet. Imagine taking one of them and repurposing it to be something wearable today.

This is exactly what University textile students did earlier this semester as part of an "upcycled" garment project in their fundamentals of fibers class.

“I didn’t wear them, they weren’t being used, so then taking them from that to making it something I created, something that I really liked, was upcycling for me,” said Jason Fondaw, a sophomore from Wichita.

According to Kadie Nugent, a graduate teaching assistant in the textiles department who teaches the class, the project was to take garments either from your life or those found at thrift stores and repurpose and re-image them.

Nugent said she assigned this project in part to think about the wastefulness of the fashion industry.

“It doesn’t have to be on a runway to be exciting, thoughtful and progressive,” Nugent said.

Fondaw goes to thrift stores regularly, so he already had the majority of his garments for the project. Fondaw stitched together fabrics to make a bolero jacket with long puffy sleeves and high-waisted patchwork pants. Fondaw said he thinks clothes are important for self-expression.

The project took students about three weeks to complete, which included the entire process of conceptualizing and sewing. The project also helped the students build skills, such as sewing and embroidery, which will be important for future projects.

Nugent said some students found their garments first to be inspirations for the project, while others conceptualized before selecting the garments.

“That was interesting for me to see,” Nugent said.

Nugent’s upcycled garment project has inspired another fundamentals of fibers class to complete a similar project later this semester. Allison Sheldon, a graduate teaching assistant in the textile department, will also be assigning the project to her ART 133 class.

Sheldon’s students will have an added component to their project. They will also design a photoshoot to display their garments. Their resulting images will be based around the garment in mind.

Garments aren’t just things to wear, they are also fine art, according to Sheldon. She said she is assigning the project to keep in mind the wastefulness of the fashion industry, and upcycling is a way to stop that.

“I think it’s a cool and interesting thing to talk about and teach,” Sheldon said.

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