Fashion Evolved: Uniforms Unraveled 2023

Transforming waste into wonder: explore upcycle sustainability for a greener future with creative repurposing and eco-friendly practices.
BY Alfonso de Hoyos-Acosta

Photo Credits


The latest edition of Upcycle Project’s “Fashion Evolved: Uniforms Unraveled” featured donated eponymous uniforms from WM (Waste Management), a North American sustainable waste management and recycling company. These grey and blue-hued uniforms were upcycled by Miami International University of Art and Design’s (MIU) fashion design graduates into fashion-forward clothes that still honored their origins. The exhibit continues to offer an opportunity to raise awareness of the fashion industry’s global impact by designing showpieces made from unwanted materials.

This year Upcycle Project partnered with WM, garments by graduates from Miami International University of Art & Design

As you walk into Miami International Mall’s center court, the exhibition is bathed in the filtered sun of the skylights, which beautifully showcases WM’s basic everyday uniforms reimagined into on-trend fashion. In the center of the exhibit, the curators cleverly placed a mannequin dressed in the traditional unaltered uniform, which provides a wonderful link between the hard-working WM employees and the beautiful clothes being presented. It cannot be denied that, at first glance, the exhibition induced a smile of delight in seeing the uniforms turned into chic fashion using the company’s shades of blues, grays, and whites.

From left to right: Judith Cabrera, Alejandro Barzaga, Patricia Camacho, Francys Herrera and Anastasio Giannoutsos

Dawn McCormick, Director of Communications and Government Affairs for WM, was quite excited to present the outcome of this collaboration. She reinforced that WM is committed to sustainability and that the company understands the challenges of textiles after they are disposed of. WM is committed to keeping cloth out of landfills as much as possible, so this collaboration was dear to the company’s goals.

Dawn McCormick, Director of Communications and Government Affairs for WM

Dawn indicated to me that not only could she see the innovative creativity that went into making these designs, but she also felt the designers honored the origin of the fabric and the hard-working men and women who wear these clothes every day. WM staff get up as early as 2:30 am each morning to keep our cities and buildings clean, and she was excited to share with WM staff the outcome of this partnership with the Upcycle Project, the mall, and MIU. She told me that the WM staff love being part of their communities, and Dawn was positive they would be thrilled to see how their everyday clothes were turned into high fashion.

Anastasio Giannoutsos was the winner of the mini-competition with his marvelous figure-fitting long dress. He used two pairs of pants for the skirt and another for the bustier top. It’s a dress full of surprises and was designed to be instantly wearable. He ingeniously used waistband fabric to create a zigzag of cloth layered vertically along the skirt and bustier. As I kept looking at the front of the garment, it became apparent that Anastasio constructed the zigzag as an ingenious reference to the WM logo. It was the first delightful surprise, and the second was the back of the bustier, which reused name, flag, and identification patches as a link to the shirts worn by WM employees. Anastasio provided a gorgeous ready-to-wear dress filled with sweet references to the company and the fabric’s origins, which is quite challenging and thus deserves the win.

Francys Herrera, a known experimenter, created the only men’s design with an eye-popping fashion-forward jacket and pants. She used discarded waistbands as a belt for the jacket, making you aware of her ingenuity. Francys also added a deep hood to the jacket, which added depth to the silhouette. She used the uniform’s natural shades of blues, whites, and greys to create a colorful, elegant, innovative look. Francys told me she started with the pants and shirts on a mannequin and organically draped and folded the cloth until she finally played off the idea of a fashion-forward men’s uniform engineered to work with our changing climate. The deep hood would provide protection from the changing seasons with its rain and cold. But she also used the cotton from the shirts to provide breathability for warmer weather. To top it all off, Francys’ design was reversible so that the pieces could be used in multiple beautiful ways.

Perennial avant-garde favorite Alejandro Barzaga used multiple pairs of pants to create an amazingly unique crop top juxtaposed with elegant 3/4 sleeves that had draping worked into the back of the sleeves. The sleeves were stunning and supremely original with their draping and details like frog closures on the cuffs. He converted the other trousers into a cute mini skirt with ruffled trim from discarded waistbands. Alejandro provided us with multiple gorgeous details, such as the lovely backpack cleverly attached to the back of the top that did not add bulk but actually improved the overall silhouette. Alejandro continues to create clothes that provide a highly distinctive aesthetic that remain fundamentally beautiful, tailored, and celebrates women.

Patricia Camacho used three pants to create a long blue skirt with on-trend cargo pockets. She used metal buttons and chains to invoke a fresh look that mimicked denim and upcycled the clothes into an outfit that was sexy, elegant, and youthful. She respected the origin of the material and created a design that screamed utility but with a lovely twist.

Judith Cabrera used four pairs of pants and four shirts to make a color-blocked pantsuit. Judith cheekily reused the belt loops from the pants at the hem of the pants and sleeves, giving a cohesive and fun look. She also dyed some of the fabric to create a pop of eggplant color that was the center of an eye-catching color block top.

It was a pleasure to see designers be thoughtful in upcycling clothes. Instead of torturing the fabric and garments into pieces entirely unrecognizable from their origin, the MIU designers worked to evoke the WM uniform in their beautiful designs. In the end, the designers all presented upcycled clothes that WM staff would be proud of and excited to be associated with.

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