This fashion designer is burning her own handbags to make you think again about upcycled fashion

4 November 2021
Images: Yan Yugay

Russian fashion designer Nensi Avetisian has always championed sustainable fashion. Her collections are produced using fabrics from vintage clothes, old stock, and second-hand garments, as well as recycled plastic bags and bottle caps.

But the designer is also interested in changing the mindset and culture around sustainability. Her new collaborative project with photographer Yan Yugay looks at what, how, and why we consume and discard — and questions the real value of material goods in the digital-first 21st century.

Created in collaboration with set designers Alexey Leontiev and Alexandra Budarina, the anti-glamour shoot sees Avetisian’s creations dumped on sidewalks, stuck to wires, and even burned.

“We wanted the viewer to feel a bit uncomfortable and to think about the value of personal belongings,” Avetisian says. “Styling accessories for fashion shoots is mostly about success, sex, luxury aesthetics. But this series shows the feeling I have while searching for an old leather jacket to make into a bag. When I look at the final bag, I still have that old jacket and the place it was found in my mind. To me, it is not about the glamour, but the journey of these garments.”

The series hopes viewers will look again at discarded objects — and remember that creativity could give them a second life. “All the shoes in the shoot are upcycled; the small bags are made from old leather jackets from second-hand stores,” the designer adds, “and the base for the sandals in the water was found in the actual garbage near my house.

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