Warning: the styles that follow are not your average DIYs, but it is recommended that you try these looks at home. Extreme upcycling is a form of crafting that makes good use of whatever materials innovators have handy — from tape to shopping bags to previously unsalvageable clothing. Though recent times have inspired luxury design houses like Louis Vuitton and Proenza Schouler to revisit their archives and recycle fabrics, others like Stella McCartney and Marine Serre have long incorporated these innovative and sustainable practices into their design model. For many upcyclers around the world, the process is about approaching design in a way that’s considerate to the planet, while also providing reinvented and one-of-a-kind wares that make their clients feel nostalgic.
Upcycling takes DIY up a notch and it is hardly limited to clothing. I’ve witnessed synergy amongst this area — with woven blankets becoming dresses, sleeping bags turning into puffer coats, jewelry made from hardware and beyond. Some designers revamp housewares, while others elevate the possibilities of food (both artist Tyler Mitchell’s confectionary sandals in Bottega Veneta’s latest magazine and designer Nicole McLaughlin’s lemon squeeze bra come to mind). Overall, there are strident efforts to reduce textile waste, introduce a form of über functional design, and bring new value to materials that might have otherwise been discarded.
For further insight, I spoke with Cierra Boyd of FRISKMEGOOD, a sustainable design company based in Cleveland, Ohio. After receiving a sewing machine as a gift from her father, Boyd stumbled into design and hasn’t looked back. Since 2017, Boyd has been recognized for her sneaker corsets by HYPEBAE and Vogue México. Most recently, the designer’s retro-futurist styles have been sported by the likes of Dreezy and Tkay Mdaiza. The name FRISKMEGOOD stems from a Rihanna lyric in the song “Rockstar 101,” but under Boyd’s influence, the phrase has taken on a new life through her brand’s sensual allure and one-off creations. Still, the designer doted on Rihanna’s impact. “If she wears FRISKMEGOOD one day, I’ve accomplished everything I need to accomplish.”
Boyd’s untraditional crafting style often requires improvisation and ingenuity, considering that she’s self-taught and admittedly a quick study of YouTube tutorials. In her own words, Boyd is a “fashion engineer” since she approaches her designs like puzzles and allows the materials to inform her plans. “I don’t use patterns. I really just let the fabrics tell me their story and I let the scissors guide me,” she told NBGA. Sourcing her shoes in bulk from a local warehouse, Boyd said that sneakers have been the easiest material to work with. “I’m a beast at the corset; I can get that done in an hour,” she explained.
Whereas the corsets are made of two pairs of shoes, larger garments like body suits typically require four to five pairs per design and more of a time commitment. “I made a sneaker dress for the first time and it took me 8 hours,” Boyd told NBGA. On her site, you will also find repurposed blankets, handmade tufted chaps, and Ed Hardy t-shirts adapted into minidresses. Though Boyd didn’t initially set out to become a sustainable designer —having gone to school for retail merchandising — it has now become a priority in terms of her purchasing regimens and eventual designs.
The future of fashion involves a shift away from the traditional linear model and consideration of fashion’s environmental impact at all levels of production. Boyd herself plans to find purposes for any unused materials in her studio, with hopes to “become the first fully circular black-owned luxury streetwear brand.” Early on in FRISKMEGOOD’s journey, customers responded better to upcycled materials than mass-produced garments, which further drove the direction that Boyd’s work has gone in.
On a macro level, she emphasized the importance of evaluating one’s own consumption and participation in fast fashion, noting that “it’s hard for people to really understand the true effects that fast fashion does have on us when we don’t directly see it.” In terms of her goal, she estimates that her business is 70 percent there now. “It’s really just small scraps and threads that I have to dispose of,” Boyd said. “It is my mission to figure out how eventually I can utilize those pieces and become a fully circular business.” With many contemporary designers following this eco-friendly lead, FRISKMEGOOD is amongst great company with an aim to close fashion’s sustainability gap.