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La Pietra Dialogues On the World On-Line
Working with Recycled Clothing
Danielle Zuckerman, NYU Florence student
La Pietra Dialogues
April 4, 2012

Last week interested passers-by peered into Villa Natalia’s blue room to find Jessamyn Hatcher and NYU Florence students working diligently to turn old clothing and accessories into new pieces. The long table was lined with abandoned clothes, needles, thread, and pins-all ready for designing. Hatcher, a professor at NYU in New York, works with her own students to keep used clothes alive and sought to help students in Florence with the same process. She came well equipped with patterns and ideas to help revamp wardrobes for students here in Florence. Students came with clothes that were ill-fitted, torn, or uninspiring with hopes of salvaging them. Hatcher asked every student who came in with one or more article of clothing to reflect and explain the significance of that piece. She paid specific attention to the story of the items, reminding us that clothes carry us through life; they see what we see. After asking where and when and with whom the garments were acquired, Hatcher posed a question.

“What do you need? It can be anything.”

She urged students to imagine , and they went on to work on several creative projects for their closets.

This workshop was part two of a series of events held by NYU Florence dedicated to the Green Fashion movement. Green Fashion emphasizes the well-being of the environment while maintaining the aesthetic aspect of fashion. The first event was a lecture by James Ferragamo, head of woman’s leather goods division of Ferragamo, and Gel Ceccarelli, one of the company’s leaders in finding alternative manufacturing techniques. Together they described several natural and environmentally-friendly means of producing clothing and accessories. James Ferragamo believes that awareness, and ultimately a reduction in consumption of resources is absolutely necessary for preserving the environment.

With this in mind, students set out to design the clothing of their dreams using the donated clothes in combination with their own. Because students going abroad usually try not to exceed the essentials when packing, the influx of donated clothing came as a pleasant surprise. The week was spent coming up with ideas like making sequins out of plastic water bottles and the workshop continued during the weekend at an Atelier in downtown Florence. The torch was passed from Jessamyn Hatcher to Sara Piccolo Pacci, who oversaw the workshop there.  The Atelier gave students access to more supplies, fabrics, appliances, and overall space that would have been available at the university. Caitlin Ryan, an NYU freshman who has worked with Green Fashion since its inception, especially enjoyed the discarded cloth advertisements that were used to make stylish bags and pillows. She also combined a shirt with a dress that no longer fit to create a dress she enjoyed and would wear more frequently. “People who were committed to the workshop got a lot out of it,” she explained. “Jessamyn Hatcher and Sara Piccolo Pacci were great; we couldn’t have asked for more helpful professors.”

All of the students were very pleased with the workshop experience and eager to describe their projects. Olivia Weiss made two purses: one from one of the discarded advertisements, and one from a pair of jeans and an old dress of hers that did not fit. “I was able to preserve the pattern of the dress, which was the part I really liked, and I made it into something I can use all the time.” She was thrilled to be introduced to sewing, and wants to continue sewing this summer to add to her collection of self-made clothing. Aidan Terry took two rejected skirts, some extra fabric, and a zipper to make a jacket that he is now very happy with. He had long wanted to become reacquainted with sewing, and he found the workshop to be an excellent experience.

The clothing made in this workshop is to be showcased in the third and final event in the Green Fashion program which will allow the students who worked this week to show off the projects that had been inconceivable prior to the workshop.

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