New Again: Upcycling With Frameworq

Photo Credit: Frameworq

Photo Credit: Frameworq

Fashion and sustainable lifestyles appear unlikely bedfellows, fashion ostensibly too prickly an ephemeral medium for life’s Galileo-like “and so it goes on.” These assumptions are harmful if only in their reach: both conspicuous consumption and devaluing human conviction trivialize meaningful change.

But, perhaps ironically, a role reversal might be the change needed to merge fashion and a sustainable humanity together. Irina Molohovsky arrived in Canada a very different person just a few years ago, and she now encourages people to perceive fashion, and themselves, through a different framework with upcycling.

“That is how I came up with the name,” reflects Molohovsky of her project Frameworq. “I want people to look at these things through a whole new philosophy.”

Vancouver-based Frameworq is a social enterprise that promotes clothing upcycling through events and workshops to open dialogues between consumers, designers, and retailers about sustainability. But it took a radical shift in Molohovsky’s own life to get her where she is today.

“I was licenced as a lawyer abroad but was looking for a change, so I came to Canada about six years ago, at first not even expecting to stay long-term,” she recalls.

“And until recently I did not even know what a social enterprise was, but now I enjoy my work more than anything. Learning about upcycling led to the most transformational period of my life.”

Her progress in such short time has been nothing but laudable. After creating Frameworq, she became a Fellow in Radical Doing at Simon Fraser University’s RADIUS (RADical Ideas Useful for Society), an incubator organization for social enterprises. And Frameworq continues to grow, preparing to host its first fashion show on May 23 called Upcycled*.

“The show will be a celebratory extension of an earlier exhibition in which we participated, itself the result of an upcycling project that included a collaboration with the Art Institute of Vancouver,” explains Molohovsky.

Molohovsky gathered almost two-dozen designers, ranging from amateurs to experienced veterans, to introduce upcycling to a handful of fashion-design classes at the Art Institute.

“The whole purpose of the project was to experiment with post-consumer materials and turn them into ready-to-wear contemporary garments,” explains Molohovsky. “And we documented the whole process to provide research towards the possibility of incorporating upcycling into the retail world.”

Together, the designers and the students created a collection of looks that were later displayed at the Discover Urban Resources exhibition hosted by Vancouver’s Dutch Urban Design Centre, an event that proved itself such a success that the Centre still had the looks up for show even after the exhibition formally concluded.

“The exhibition was really an intellectual process for us to discuss our methods and to share our stories of sustainable design practices,” says Molohovsky. “So the fashion show will be a party to commemorate that work and also to provide a chance for vendors to sell repurposed and upcycled products.”

But that intellectual process still asserts itself as a guiding light even in celebratory times. Moloshovsky’s idealism was the catalyst for Frameworq and continues to be her main inspiration towards fashion upcycling.

“Frameworq is really an intersection of three things that are important to me,” she details. “First, aesthetics, because I love working with creative people; I also have a background in retail and was always interested in learning about how I could make that more social; and finally, the environment.

“So I was seeking a container for these things and discovered the concept of upcycling, which is huge in parts of Europe but less so in North America. We have thrift stores here, but also so much waste that most stores cannot cope, so a lot of used clothes end up in rag houses and shipped out of the country to landfills.”

Frameworq’s ambition then, almost serendipitously, seeks to uncloak commodity fetishism by asking people to consider the lives behind the clothes on their backs. The simple reality behind the curtains is that real people make clothes and the fabrics they utilize almost always have lifespans beyond that of the clothing articles themselves.

“Ultimately, we want to encourage a new kind of production process that is cost effective and sustainable, but also capable of producing great looks,” says Moloshovsky.

“For consumers, I am hoping to show them that they have a choice in making responsible buying decisions. With designers, I feel it is crucial to introduce the notion of lifecycles into their process so they can have more of a say in what happens to products at the end of the line. And lastly, if we can demonstrate to retailers that upcycling is a viable business opportunity, then that can generate a transformation towards more sustainable practices.”

Frameworq also has its sights on setting up an online store in the near future and later establishing its own physical space.

But for now Moloshovsky is focused on the fashion show and eager to share what her and her team have worked so tirelessly on over the past few months.

“I am so excited for the show, but largely it is a piece in a larger puzzle,” she exclaims. “Frameworq feels like something much bigger than me, which is why I feel this sense of urgency and a need to bring more people on board. This is the right time.”

And yet it moves.

For more details about the Upcycled* fashion show, which is open to the public, click here.