A new upcycling class at Orange Coast College allows fashionistas to express themselves — and be sustainable in the process.
And that alone makes it the best class I could ever even dream of.
Upcycling is transforming by-products, waste materials, useless or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality and environmental value. I started doing this through thrift store shopping my freshman year of high school. It was the thrill of finding one-of-a-kind pieces that was more appealing than heading to the mall. To make my clothes even more exclusive I began to upcycle them.
It started out with changing a hem and suddenly I would find myself with a completely novel item. Since fashion is cyclical, thrift stores often allow you to find the original inspiration for trends. Apart from being a more sustainable choice to fast fashion, having a one-of-a-kind piece of fashion is unlike any thrill a shopping spree can supply.
During a time where everything is so mass produced and we find ourselves surrounded with carbon copies of the same celebrities, the promise of originality presented in upcycling has led to its new popularity.
I was thrilled when I found out that the Fashion department was offering an upcycling class for this semester. Not only does this underline upcycling’s newfound popularity, but it allows more students that might have not been aware of upcycling to be exposed to it.
The upcycling class will only be available this semester unless the Fashion department decides to renew it. This class was created thanks to Lauren Becker, who has been teaching at OCC for 16 years and has been a fashion program coordinator for five years.
Becker has interned in a variety of jobs in the fashion industry including working with also worked with OCC alum and designer Paul Frank.
According to Becker, her love for fashion and upcycling helped her create the class. Her favorite upcycled piece she made is a necklace made out of discarded watch parts and other metal pieces. She found all the parts at the Long Beach flea market.
“I spent about three hours looking at old clock pieces on a blanket,” Becker said.
She added that the piece is now her go-to necklace and she has worn it on job interviews and other special occasions. Part of what makes an upcycled piece so special is the amount of time invested into the project, Becker said.
According to Becker, her motivation for starting the class was both self-serving and educational.
“It was a little bit selfish. I just wanted to teach a purely design course,” Becker said. “I wanted to be able to do something new and I thought it aligned well with our sustainability certificate but definitely giving you more of the creative avenue to it.”
The upcycling course aligns with fashion trends in a sustainable way and fosters a sense of autonomy of your own style, Becker said.
“There are projects that I worked on and the popularity of upcycling of it made it seem like a good time for this,” she said.
My first day of class was a crafters dream. There was a table with a pile of T-shirts for our first assignment. The assignment required us to transform the T-shirt into a completely new garment.
The products generated from the class will be for sale at the Box on May 4 through 7. The Box is located in a shipping container between the Literature and Languages building and the MBCC. All of the proceeds generated from these sales will go toward scholarships for the fashion program.