Marist graduate goes viral with clothes made from fast fashion wrappers

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A Marist College fashion student had an idea she didn’t know would land in front of more than 12 million people on TikTok: take the trash from a major fast-fashion brand and turn herself into a stylish new haircut .

Shein, a Chinese fast fashion online retailer, was valued at $100 billion, more than Zara and H&M combined. The brand is popular among Gen Z, perhaps because of its ads on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. Shein is the most mentioned brand on TikTok, and thousands of Shein shopping videos are shared daily, showcasing its trending clothes (the brand is releasing up to 2,000 new products every day).

Every Shein order arrives in a clear plastic bag with “SHEIN” written on the side and a zipper on the top. People wondered how to reuse these bags instead of throwing them away; popular ideas include using them as a makeup bag or for shipping other items.

But Ava Grand had a different idea.

When she was sent home from Marist College at the start of the pandemic, she had her own Shein order waiting for her.

“I had all these bags in my room and we had nothing to do during that time,” she said. “I used it as a material – rip it, stuff it and sew it.”

Ava Grand has made jackets, shoes, bags and more from Shein packaging waste. (Photo: Ava Grand)


Ava Grand
Ava Grand has made jackets, shoes, bags and more from Shein packaging waste.  (Photo: Ava Grand)

Ava Grand has made jackets, shoes, bags and more from Shein packaging waste. (Photo: Ava Grand)


Ava Grand


Ava Grand has made jackets, shoes, bags and more from Shein packaging waste. (Photo: Ava Grand)

From his bedroom in New Jersey, Grand began turning the bags into accessories and clothing. The first item she made was a tote bag. From there, what started as a pandemic hobby grew into an entire fashion line for her signature project at Marist, where she majored in design and minored in product development and merchandising.

Grand posted his first TikTok asking people to send him Shein bags in the spring of 2021, after a year of continuing to make items from

packing family and friends. This video has nearly 30,000 views, but it was only this year that the TikTok community made Grand go viral. His video posted on April 30 has nearly 2 million likes and over 12 million views.

@ava_grand shein turns into clothes thanks to you guys 😎😎 #sheinsustainable #fashionstudent #shein #fashiondesign #sewingshein #sewing ♬ Borderline – Tame Impala

“I was like, ‘Oh my god, the first thing I really like to do went viral,'” Grand said. “It became this huge thing.”

People kept sending in their Shein bags, from everywhere between Florida and England, where Grand had studied abroad. “It was chaos,” she said. “It’s almost like they had the same vision and passion for something they wanted to do for this plastic, but I’m the arm and the mind behind what I can actually do with it. That’s a reward to hear that they want to be part of something I can create.

Grand has made puffer jackets, skirts, bags and more from Shein packaging. Her favorite item is a vest with an orange zipper.

Ava Grand receives the Designer of the Year award at the 36th Annual Marist Silver Needle Runway.

Ava Grand receives the Designer of the Year award at the 36th Annual Marist Silver Needle Runway.

Carlo de Jesus/Marist College

She showcased her collection of upcycled Shein bags, “Retreat,” on May 6 in front of nearly 2,000 people at the 36th annual Marist College Silver Needle Runway Show. Grand received the Designer of the Year award among the 24 design majors that graduated this year.

“These students reflect on the world around them, from sustainability and body positivity to diversity, equity and inclusion and belonging to gender identity,” said the fashion program director , John Bartlett, in a press release about the show.

“I remember when I was a freshman and hearing about the creator of the year and thinking, ‘Wow, that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen…that’ is what anyone would want from the show,” Grand said. “When it happened, the feeling of [my peers] congratulating myself seemed the best because it was such an honor to be appreciated not only by the public, but also by the people I have worked with for the past four years.

Grand had been sewing since she was five and said she wouldn’t have gone to college if not for fashion. After taking classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology in high school, she was torn between there and Marist for college. She was finally won over by the beauty of the Hudson Valley: “I go to the Walkway Over the Hudson for a stress buster,” she said. At Marist, she was able to balance her social life with the sorority she was in, her outdoor life, and her sewing life.

After graduating, Grand would continue her career in fashion design with an internship in California. For her new clients looking to rock sustainable fashion, she said she would continue on a make-to-order basis. Right now, she’s working on unisex bucket hats and phone purses.

His only question? “I wonder, will it be easier to ship my sewing machine or take it with me on the plane?”

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