Welcome to sustainable fashion

An Israeli-Canadian fashion duo makes new cloths out of old - but the garments are a cut above the pieces from which they originate.

recycled clothes fashion 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
recycled clothes fashion 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Growing up in Georgetown, Ontario, a city of about 40,000, Andrea Hughes moved to Toronto to study the business end of fashion at George Brown College. After a stint at retail chains like Aldo and the FX Boutique, by age 23 Hughes was designing her own clothes.
Today, four years on, Hughes has moved again, and now she and her husband Shai Wallach are running a unique family business – a line of “upcycled” fashion items for women and men – out of their PopLove studio in south Tel Aviv.
“Basically I decided I was done with working for other people andwanted to design for myself,” Hughes says, explaining that “upcycled”refers to clothing which is recycled into garments that are a cut abovethe pieces from which they originate.
Wallach and Hughes took materials sourced from a local women’s charitythat collects donations of clothes to create PopLove. It’s an onlinefashion retail brand that can be found in Tel Aviv's trendiestboutiques, like those in the Gan Hashmal area. Items for sale onlineare popular with an American, European and Australian clientele.
Hughes and Wallach met in Toronto. They moved to Israel in March 2008after a year or so in London where Wallach, originally from Israel,worked in photography and Hughes in fashion.
“We needed a fashionable city – that's why we moved to London,” saysHughes. But London was tough. “It was an intense atmosphere and we werethere for a year, but we both wanted to be somewhere closer to ourhearts.”
Wallach’s roots are in Israel (he’s Jewish, she’s not) and the twodecided to live closer to his family in the Middle East. Tel Aviv’sFlorentine neighborhood fit the bill. Hughes says the weather is a lotbetter than it is back in Canada, adding that Florentine is “fun andyoung and modern and hip; the equivalent to Queen West in Toronto.”
They model the clothes themselves, also filling the roles of designersand distributors. Wallach’s skills as photographer are apparent in thePopLove catalogue.
Their design process begins at the Women’s International ZionistOrganization (WIZO) second-hand charity clothing shop, where they pickout the fabrics and baubles that catch their fancy. Then they wash thematerials and cut them up, using the older, pre-worn clothes as thesource for their lines of shirts, skirts, dresses and more.
“We start with, say, a few shirts from WIZO. We clean them and fromthere start to cut patterns into the shirts,” Hughes explains. Buildinglayer upon layer, “the pieces are cut into the shapes of our patterns,which we then take to a local sewing place of very high quality – ahigh-end sewing factory which pieces and puts things together.”
The end products come in collections in a range of sizes, and withhundreds of variations. “We will try and sort things by color scheme,such as the reddish shirt and the bluish shirt. But every single piece,because of where the material comes from, is one of a kind,” sheemphasizes.
The fun really starts when they pick up the clothes from the factory.“We add our own elements such as water-based inks, eco-friendly screenprint designs on shirts. We add studs, grommets and all kinds ofcrystals depending on what is suitable for the piece,” says Hughes.
This is where Wallach’s fashion sense shines. He loves to work on thescreens and prints, beams Hughes, who says that the irregularities andoddities in the previously-worn clothing makes the end result“fun-looking.” Suddenly a bit of a logo will be on your back, andyou'll see a design and shape come to life that you wouldn’t havethought possible, she remarks.
Hughes, who had designed her own line of alternative club wear inToronto called Hysteric-Faerie, was first inspired to work withrecycled materials after noticing the copious amounts of fabric scrapson the cutting room floor of her upstairs neighbor, who also works infashion. Learning that all those swathes were simply thrown away, sheenvisioned recycling the material as a way to create sustainablefashion.
The idea was reinforced by the ambience of the Florentine neighborhood,born of the jumble of studios belonging to young artists and clothingdesigners that rub shoulders with high-end furniture stores, old-schoolcarpentry shops, and everything in between.
“We decided we wanted to go for an angle that would be sustainable.There is a stereotype that green is hippy. But at the end of the day,it’s just material, and where you get it from has an impact,” Hughesconcludes.