By making bell dresses from discarded electrical wires, designer Alexandra Sipa creates luxury fashion out of waste. For her Central St Martins graduate collection, Romanian Camouflage, she took traditional Romanian embroidery techniques learnt from her grandmother and applied them to cables collected from London’s Recycling Centre, as well as metal scrap yards.
The collection grew from Sipa’s internships with fashion giants such as Balenciaga and Oscar de la Renta, where she worked on big volume dresses. The designer went through several trials to perfect her technique, so that the wires didn’t prick, but felt “safe and protective, like a shield.”
As well as being eco-friendly, the collection also helped Sipa come to terms with her hyper-feminine tastes. “I was attracted by everything hyper-feminine as a child,” she recalls. The designer wore all-pink outfits and carried her dolls everywhere until she was 11, sparking laughter among both children and adults. “Now, it seems ridiculous to me that I was mocked because I was too girly,” she says. “This inhibited me, and I started hiding my personality in order to fit in better.” But at Central St Martins, Sipa began exploring her passion for femininity once again. “I started re-discovery myself and rediscovering my personality,” she says.
With self-rediscovery came happiness. “Everything in the collection reminds me of something that brings me joy,” Sipa explains — whether that’s the colour palette of her grandmother’s fence in the eastern Romanian town of Bacău, or the rags her granny gave her for the collection, a material reminder of the love she always finds in her mother’s hometown. The bon vivant spirit of the collection also echoes the easy going atmosphere that Sipa’s family creates around the dinner table.
Now, the designer is working on more accessible versions of the collection, which she hopes to sell at affordable prices. An online store focusing on clothes made out of recycled materials, as well as new forms of innovative embroidery, is also in the works.