For months we have been surrounded by boxes upon boxes of both new and old garments and heaps of objects, uniforms, and other sundry items—as a team we have sought out strategies to sort through and organize this multitude, as a kind of compendium—working with alumni/designers/artists/students/faculty we have designed and redesigned, deconstructed and reconstructed our way through the seemingly endless piles with boundless perseverance, infinite patience, and many illuminating conversations.
Exhibited at The Fashion Zone until Friday, December 16th, TMU Upcycled Gear Exhibition features unique fashion pieces and “gear” produced entirely from Ryerson and Rams-branded material. Celebrating the legacy of the Rams and the future success of TMU Bold, while also shining a light on environmental sustainability, the Upcycled Gear Collection was assembled by emerging and international TMU alumni fashion designers and artists including Olivia Rubens, Worth. by David C Wigley, House of Hendo by Kelly Henderson, avrgbbs, Wuthering Delight by Curtis Matysek, Alexandra Armata, and more. The limited edition collection focuses on upcycling methods in fashion design–zero waste, deconstruction, reconstruction, subtraction, unraveling, and design for disassembly, amongst others.
Alumni and designer Alexandra Armata on the importance of upcycling…
“We can add new value to discarded garments by redesigning, combining, and manipulating them. That way they can be saved from ending up in a landfill and change people’s perception of what they can be worth.”
On November 28th, the newly created “looks” were modeled by TMU student-athletes, as well as by President Mohamed Lachemi, Interim Provost Roberta Iannacito-Provenzano, and Vice-Provost Students, Jen McMillen. Through the conceits of inclusion and diversity, the designers produced made-to-measure garments and accessories–athletes and creatives engaged in a collaborative artistic process and forged new connections.
Initiated after the renaming of Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson) in April 2022, the Upcycled Gear Collection was a multidisciplinary effort made possible through the collaboration of the School of Fashion @ The Creative School, the Branded Material Transition Project, the Athletics and Recreation Department, Scadding Court, and the Sustainability Office. Spearheaded by Dr. Anika Kozlowski (School of Fashion), the Upcycled Gear Exhibition brought faculty, alumni, and current fashion design students together in creative direction, production, research, and curation.
Alumni, artist, and researcher Robin Jam on the influence of working with worn materials… “It was quite interesting just from a theoretical standpoint to work with garments that have such utilitarian detailing and turn them into something more aesthetic. As someone who has consumed far too much New Materialism, it left me thinking about the previous life of these garments and the implications of transforming them. It’s almost like collaborating with the garment itself, working around the marks of its history.”
At the center of the exhibition and standing in contrast to the university-wide initiative, Dr. Kozlowski’s research focuses on responsible textile sorting, repurposing, and recycling. Through a site-specific installation combining a short documentary video filmed along the coastline of Accra, Ghana, juxtaposed against found and “ready-made objects” such as shoe soles and elastic waistbands. The viewer is presented with a reality that is equally placid and stark–the sound of waves invites quiet reflection while the ocean awash with textiles evokes a Munchian scream of waste and overconsumption.
Every step of the upcycling initiative was carefully contemplated – not only for the purposes of the exhibition itself but as part of celebrating this next chapter in TMU’s history and identity more generally. The project documentation and the designers’ making process photos were “digitally upcycled” by Tricia Crivellaro and Ashwini Joseph and turned into abstract visuals for a virtual expansion of the exhibit. Please visit our instagram to see more.
Alumni and art-duo avrgbbs on the messaging and thought behind the look…
“We began this process by asking what is the meaning of institutional identity in the context of the name change/periods of transition. What shapes institutional identity? What (and who) does it represent? This led to us thinking about the institution as a patchwork of multiple identities coming together as an interconnected whole. Through patchwork and assemblage, we offer an approach to identity that is hybrid, mutable, and full of collective potential.”
TMU Upcycled Gear Exhibition serves as a powerful statement focusing on the intersection between upcycled craftsmanship and mass-produced branded commodities, as mediated through the collaborative spirit of sport. The innovative and experimental garments and accessories–at times both unsettling and inspiring–stand apart, resist definition, and hopefully generate conversations and transformations.
TMU Fashion Student Kenta Ogura on the inspiration behind his upcycled look…
“My main inspiration came from a Micheal Jordan quote saying “You must learn to fail before you can succeed”. I connected this quote to a Caravaggio painting titled “David with the head of Goliath”. These two elements reminded me of concepts of acceptance and defeat. I connected those symbols as a manner to engage with the University’s transition process—abstraction echoing past mistakes.”
Join us on the evening of Friday, December 16th from 6 – 8 pm for our ‘exhibition closing night’ at the Fashion Zone on TMU campus. The networking event will host fashion industry experts, fashion designers, alumni, and students. This will also be your last chance to buy a one-of-a-kind piece or two!
Tricia Crivellaro is an artist-designer and instructor in fashion design at Toronto Metropolitan University.