WINDSOR, ONT. -- Upcoming fashion designer Maddie Bevacqua is looking to highlight the importance of sustainability by turning unwanted materials into fashionable clothing.

“The reason I got into fashion was because I didn’t want to support fast fashion brands anymore,” says the 23-year-old designer.

The fashion industry is one of the largest polluting industries in the world, even ahead of the transportation industry. One of the main culprits is fast fashion — mass production of cheap and replaceable clothes that come with an environmental cost.

“The second biggest polluters in landfills is the textiles and garments. So it’s a huge problem right now,” says Elaine Chatwood, coordinator of the St. Clair College Fashion Design program.

Bevacqua’s pieces sourced from recycled materials won her the top designer award at St. Clair College’s 2021 Atelier Fashion Show which came with a $1,000 scholarship.

The recent St. Clair graduate created her one-of-kind garments using tablecloths, curtains and tapestries she found at local thrift stores.

“I don’t like taking like a perfect tapestry. I like to take something that’s damaged and might not be used for its original purpose and give it new purpose,” says Bevacqua.

maddie bevacqua

The process of creating the pieces takes time. Bevacqua often searches through local thrift stores and online markets for months before finding suitable materials. She then begins designing her garments and making them by hand.

“The hardest part is cutting my fabrics. I’m really scared that I’m going to screw up. Once I screw up on a certain material, I can’t get a new one. So I’ll have to make a solution,” she says.

Chatwood says the sustainable fashion is growing in popularity with younger generation as they become more conscious shoppers. To break the fast fashion habit, Chatwood suggests consumers think twice before purchasing an item.

“You should ask a few questions. First of all, do you need this? Secondly, what is the fabric?  f possible always buy organic cotton and recycled polyester,” she suggests.

When shopping, Chatwood says the seams can reveal a lot about the quality of clothing.

“Look inside the garments at the seams. If the garment isn’t sown very well and the seams allowances are really small, after one or two washes it’s going to frail.”

Finally, she suggests consumers learn basic sewing skills.

“Learn how to sow a button on, fix a zipper and actually owning a sewing machine again,” Chatwood says. “It’s a great trend learning how to fix your own items.”