Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity. — Pope Francis' encyclical letter in 2015 (Laudato si).
Though I had read the above phrase before, it was only while reading it off one of my favourite books - let my people go surfing by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, that I realized just how profoundly transformational recycling through the radical act of repurposing can be.
A Radical Discovery
While recovering from a ruptured appendix about 4 years ago, I decided to research the subject of sustainability and became aware of the environmental degradation brought about by the oil & gas industry, an area I predominantly work in and that the next most polluting is the fashion industry.
I considered that I may not be able to change, our global dependence on fossil fuels but I could have a direct impact, perhaps a little one, with my style. I took a good look at my wardrobe and saw so much WASTE! I had accumulated a fountain of gorgeous African fabrics but did absolutely nothing with them beside allowing them to occupy good space.
Most new clothing is massively produced using cheap labour made from synthetic fibers derived from petroleum – These are effectively plastic, which may never breakdown, shedding off microplastic particles into our ecosystem with each wash. My background in chemical engineering (my first degree) gives way to understanding the dangers of toxic, synthetic chemicals derived from petrochemicals and their long term negative effects.
This realization spurred my journey of recycling and repurposing African fabrics. It started with my traditional wedding attire which was made from the indigenous handwoven fabric commonly known as aso-oke in Nigeria, West Africa. By extending the useful life of these fabrics, my home is effectively adorned with uniquely handmade cushion pillow and they serve as a constant reminder of a special day.
Time for Zerowaste
I regard the typical Nigerian wedding as some sort of fashion fiasco, defined by large gatherings of people, all decked out in colourful attires and women adorned with incredible head gears, called 'geles'.
For those yet to witness a Nigerian wedding, Nollywood has done a great job to capture a flavour of what happens at a typical 'Naija' wedding party and with Netflix, global viewing is made possible.
I am most intrigued at the vast amount of intricate and elaborate headstyles into which the African gele/asooke can be fashioned. They are literally pieces of art. A pity thought that once the wedding party is over, the very next weekend, when another wedding is on, a different piece of gele fabric will be required given that each bride wants her special day to be unique with her own gele of choice!
I decided to do something about the unfortunate fate of the numerous gorgeous geles and asookes that are stored away in several closets, not receiving day light once they have served their original purpose--- as fashionable headgear accessories.
Hence, the Zerowaste approach is fundamental to UnikBlends as it is now more crucial than ever with the amount of damage already done to our beloved mother earth. Zerowaste is a philosophy aimed at avoiding as much waste as possible and you’ll be shocked how the slightest of positive action can have a huge impact.
Repurposing is a Radical Act
With fashion as the second most polluting industry and given the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the impact of global warming of 1.5 degree celsius, there is a REAL need for action. Lifestyle changes and actions can make a big difference, says Dr Debra Roberts, the IPCC's co-chair.
As discarded clothes are piling up in landfill sites and plastic fibre fragments are flowing into the sea when synthetic clothes are washed…..UnikBlends offers a simple, yet radical solution that is also empowering: Recycle & Repurpose to Reinvent everyday wear!
African's Geles and AsoOkes are beautiful handwoven indigenous fabrics from West Africa, that are durable with superior quality, making them suitable for the creation of stylish functional bags and accessories. These add exciting colour and style to everyday look and readily serve as unique gifts to be cherished by your loved ones.
The Upcycled GeleObiBelt is one of our latest creation. It can readily be used to transform any plain dress into an exciting, modern outfit that says, 'I am confident and cool'. These belts are double-sided, offering ladies the opportunity to blend with several outfits.
Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia states that repairing and repurposing this way is a radical act. "Fixing something we might otherwise throw away is almost inconceivable, but the impact is enormous".
UnikBlends offers repairs and repurposing services to transform once loved fabrics into bold, colorful and vintage pieces. You can also get your clothing repaired, repurposed to reinvent your wardrobe.
If you wish to be part of this simple Radical Act, meet us at one of events or online. Any purchase made, will be investment into our much needed sustainable style while directly empowering the woman who handmade your purchase.