Young designer creates fashion out of recycled materials | St. Clair College
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
Maddie Bevacqua poses next to one of her designs using upcycled material.
Maddie Bevacqua poses next to one of her designs using upcycled material.

Upcoming fashion designers like Maddie Bevacqua are looking to make the future of fashion more sustainable.

Bevacqua, who graduated from the Fashion Design Technician program this year and received the top designer award at the 2021 Atelier Fashion Show, got into the business of designing clothes after becoming frustrated with the unsustainable nature of the fashion industry.

The fashion industry is currently one of the world's leading causes of pollution, resulting in 20 percent of the world's wastewater. One of the main factors in this is the concept of fast fashion: clothing that is designed to be cheap and easily replaceable, leading many to buy new clothes more frequently and discard old garments.

To counter this, the Circular Fashion movement was started to reduce and eliminate waste whenever possible during the process, whether it be from the designing, manufacturing, or consumption of fashion products. Out of this movement came the practice of upcycling, reusing, and recycling old pieces of clothing and finding a way to re-purpose them into something new instead of allowing them to become waste.

Bevacqua creates all of her garments from locally sourced, recycled fabrics and reuses scraps to limit waste. Her main sources come from thrifted tablecloths, curtains and tapestries, making her garments one-of-a-kind.

Bevacqua said while she advocates for upcycling, it does come with limitations for her to work around.

"Relying on thrift stores for fabrics can feel limiting sometimes," Bevacqua said. "Often I'll have a vision for an outfit but can't find suitable fabrics. So, rather than designing an outfit and then gathering the needed materials (as I would if I bought new fabrics), I usually collect fabrics and design based on what I've found."

Bevacqua's upcycled designs were recognized during the 2021 Atelier Fashion Show Runway with Robotics, where she was awarded a $1,000 scholarship from Télio Fabrics. She said winning the award felt validating and proved that upcycled designs could be just as beautiful as brand-new creations.

Elaine Chatwood, coordinator of the Fashion Design program, said over the last few years she has noticed an increase in the popularity of upcycling from her students. She said she has been impressed with the meticulous nature of many students and the creative ways they have repurposed various fabrics. Notably, 2020 graduate Lucy Tomoko Oxenfarth, brought a traditional Japanese obi to repurpose in her work. Oxenfarth was the winner of a $1,000 scholarship from the St Clair College Alumni Association.

Due to Covid-19 safety restrictions, the 2021 fashion show almost did not happen. Fortunately, the college was able to adapt and put together a virtual fashion show with robots instead of human models. This gave the opportunity to showcase designs from the graduating classes from 2020 and 2021, as well as the current first-year students. Chatwood said she was very glad they were able to put on a show for the 2021 class, as well as the 2020 graduates, as they were unable to put on a fashion show last year due to the pandemic.

Chatwood would also like to thank Graphic Design professors Nick Kuipers and Glenn Evans for enlisting their students to design the poster and website for the show, as well as Al Douglas, who teaches in the Electromechanical Engineering Technician-Robotics program for his help preparing and operating the AGV to bring the dress forms to life.

The 2021 and 2020 fashion shows are available to watch at

By Albert Sharp