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.