Imagine stumbling across a girl wearing Chanel heels modified with economy flip flop brand Swallow carrying a bag made from used chippings. If this has happened to you before, chances are you’ve met Putri Samboda. With her quirky sense of style, this Indonesian internet personality has sought to redefine both trash and fashion.
While turning discarded materials like unused clothing into wearable fashion pieces may not be new, Putri’s use of everyday waste such as instant noodle wrappers and burger wrapping paper is fairly new.
Upcycled fashion, as it is called in the fashion world, is a growing movement that has turned out to be more than a passing trend. Part of it is an effort to reduce the industry’s negative impact on the planet. After all, fashion is one of the most resource-intensive industries in the world. This problem prompted Putri to start reinventing waste.
“When I think about it, it’s so crazy how I was throwing the clothes away because they had a little stain or little holes. Now I think about [upcycling] like a fun challenge to give my clothes a second life, ”said Putri.
Putri uses instant noodle wrappers to make shorts. (JP / Courtesy of Putri Samboda)
Putri began recycling unused items into quirky ready-to-wear pieces in the early days of the pandemic, when she was completely confined to the home. At first, boredom was his muse, but now Putri’s creative inclination for unique items serves as his main inspiration.
“I am now recycling to channel my creativity and also to minimize my fashion waste. I also love to wear unique fashion items, so by creating my own clothes and accessories I can achieve that, ”she said.
Unique collections, unique hobbies
Putri, who lives primarily in Washington, DC but currently lives with his parents in Yogyakarta, travels a lot – at least before the pandemic. On her travels, she collects packaging of snacks and foods exclusive to the countries she visits. She then thinks about new forms of fashion in which each packaging could be transformed.
Putri sees the creative process as a scavenger hunt – literally. “I start by looking around the house for unused items. Now that I’m in my parents’ house, it’s so much easier to do that because my family has a lot of things that I can use,” Putri said.
It takes between two days and a week in Putri to turn trash into fully functional fashion items. According to the self-taught designer, the most difficult piece she has created to date is a bucket hat made from a used paper hamburger bag and instant noodle wrap. She spent weeks sewing until she was happy with the shape.
Bubble wrap bag and card holder. (JP / Courtesy of Putri Samboda)
With only basic tools, Putri relies on a lot of improvisation.
Inspired by a lingering fondness for the British children’s television series Art attack, Putri is used to using thrown everyday objects to create his pieces. She has been doing this since her younger years. In fourth grade, she recycled old magazines into a usable stool and made paper from recycled newspapers. These are his first memories of upcycling.
People may hesitate to wear recycled items in public because of their head-turning designs, but Putri wears her own designs when she goes out. “Back in 2018, I wore my Khong Guan [biscuit] tin bag almost everywhere. I knew for sure that people were secretly watching and taking pictures, but I didn’t care because I loved wearing it. “
“I don’t go out as much now because of the pandemic, but when I do, I always try to incorporate my recycled pieces into my wardrobe. I was in Sumba a few months ago, and I specially created pieces to be brought with me on the trip. This is how much I love wearing them. “
While sarcastic and cynical remarks are expected, they can still hurt. The online messages that Putri receives through her social media accounts are varied, but negative messages follow her the most.
Bucket hats made from used paper bags from fast food chains. (JP / Courtesy of Putri Samboda)
“I can say that creativity is not very popular here in Indonesia, and the term upcycling is still very fresh in some parts of society. It is often disheartening to put so much effort into each of your pieces but end up being called stupid. “
Despite the negative comments, Putri hopes posting his upcycled fashion online will encourage others to follow suit. “I think the reason the industry still struggles to consider sustainable choices is that demand is always high, hence supply follows. If more people chose slow fashion over fast fashion, we could slowly change the industry. “
While encouraging her audiences to be more attentive to her fashion decisions one smart bag at a time, Putri has been a living example of her values.
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