Creative Fashion Recycler Seeks to Find New Meaning in Old Clothes

September 25, 2018  Editor: Xie Wen

A young fashion designer has been exploring people's relationship with the world by recycling used clothes, making new outfits and encouraging others to "seal their memories in the past and embrace the future."

Zhang Na descended from a long line of artists, where her paternal grandparents and her father's generation have all worked in areas related to painting.

Her destiny seemed to be secured until she was in high school. Then, she chose design as her major after being admitted to a college.

At one time, Zhang studied in Paris, which she said was the most fashionable city in the world. There, she had an access to observe closely how China was perceived from the perspective of the Westerners, who thought that young Chinese people only knew how to consume famous brands and follow trends.

Zhang was eager to adjust the opinion of foreigners by showing that some Chinese people, especially youngsters, are creative and are actually doing different things. Thus she resorted to recycling clothes.

She found that many people have no idea about how to dispose of their old clothes. "Although some of the clothes carry treasured moments from the past, they are just left idle in the closet for various reasons," Zhang said.

She hoped to be able to redesign meaningful clothes so that they can be shown again on other important occasions in the future.

She then had the idea of opening a Remade Clothes Bank, which she defined as an art project. She began to collect a wide variety of old clothes and accumulate the original materials for re-making in 2010.

She also worked with many environmental organizations to recycle the items. Later she debuted her designs in Austria, which caused much of a stir.  

Gradually, more and more people approached Zhang with their old clothes, such as those they wore for the first time at work; clothes they had worn during a divorce; or, clothes bought with previous lovers.

Zhang was often moved by the stories behind the objects and suddenly realized that her practice could bring healing to so many people who sought solace.

"I originally hoped that my design could be relevant in more fields. But, when people came to me with their old clothes, I realized that this is exactly what they needed, because these clothes can help them retain good memories of the past, and also will create more beautiful memories for them in future," Zhang explained.

Zhang also takes environmental protection into consideration while engaging in her work. Therefore her clothes often go through the process of UV disinfection, which dissolves old clothes into new fiber particles.

This recycling method effectively solves the problem of hoarding and wasting old clothes, and finally achieve the goal of environmental protection and reuse, explained Zhang.

In China, many people seem to reject the concept of re-making clothing or wearing something second-hand. With regard to changing people's mind, Zhang says she still has a long way to go.

She hopes that more people will realize that her practice can connect different times and places, and make them feel wonderful.

(Source: Translated and edited by Women of China)

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