The hottest fashion designers look to the past to create the style of the future. Two Phoenix-based designers, YEK and Samantha Vo, will have their work featured in a new Facebook travel series. Inspired by tradition and fueled by upcycling, their designs bring together past and present to create the looks of tomorrow.
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YEK drew inspiration from his Indigenous heritage to create his moccasin sneakers. Vo drew inspiration from her Mexican heritage and vintage military styles to transform military surplus bags into fashionable new works. Inhabitat interviewed these two designers to explore how they use sustainable materials and practices for fashion.
All your bags are sold out! When is the best time for shoppers to search for your bags and is it possible to pre-order bags?
Voice : For the moment, I continue to produce bags because it is a convenient process for me since I make them myself and from my home studio. The best way to find out about my drops is through my Instagram @dwn2mrz. For now, orders are closed, so I can focus on the next set of designs.
What are your bags made of?
Voice : My bags are made from military surplus and second hand materials. I get my supplies everywhere in thrift stores, garage sales and Facebook Marketplace.
What gave you the idea to create these drawings?
Voice : I had so many surplus military jackets that I salvaged and stopped wearing. I loved the material and wanted to reinvent another use for it. I made everything from bags, laptop cases and planters. Bags stuck to me the most, so I started making “mini tote bags” for my friends out of heavy-duty military surplus fabrics.
When did you become interested in fashion design? What was the first thing you designed?
Voice : I’ve always been interested in fashion design, but I considered it a very formal profession. It has been nice to explore my own process within it. The first thing I designed was Selena’s Astrodome outfit with my mom.
What are your sneakers made of?
YES : While waiting to have the possibility and the means to create our own silhouettes, we generally find slightly worn sneakers, then we use recycled lambskin to make the woven pompoms. The nickel conchos and buckles we use are from a local leather goods store.
What gave you the idea for this unique design?
YES : Along with being proud of my native roots, Japanese-Americana has been very influential to me over the past few years. Frankly, it has given me a sense of confidence in my Indigenous creations, knowing that they can be enjoyed by a wide audience and are gaining more and more social acceptance.
What prompted you to get into fashion design?
YES : Growing up, art was a constant motivation in my life. Studying my father’s drawing style and my brother’s graffiti techniques helped me establish an artistic foundation. As a teenager, I discovered a love for sneakers. Specifically, I collected the Nike SBs, which fueled my artistic spirit even more. Their shoe designs and color palettes in the early 2000s were abstract and even had themes for each pair.
The sneakers then led to an appreciation for the clothes, and eventually I worked a handful of retail jobs/internships. Although it seems many played their part, my family tree digs deeper. My Mexican grandmother made dresses for my mother when she was a child, while my Lakota grandmother made star quilts for all her grandchildren. Hard to say that there is one thing in particular that inspired me to get into fashion, it seems to be the right path for me. I’m excited for what the future holds.
Where can people buy your shoes?
These two designers certainly follow the idea of “reuse, reuse and recycle”, or in this case, upcycle. By recycling, fashion designers can conserve resources and prevent pollution. This way, waste that would otherwise end up in landfills or the oceans is never created. Aesthetically, upcycling also allows yesterday’s waste to pave the way to a more sustainable and energy-efficient future.
Young designers like Vo and YEK are using upcycling to create brand new sustainable fashions that can shape the designs of tomorrow. Inspired by their cultural roots and looking to the future of style, Vo and YEK are part of a new generation of designers changing the fashion landscape for the better.
Vo and YEK are featured in the first episode of the Facebook series “On the Map”. The series features innovators across the United States. Discover the first episode of “On the map” here.
Images via Pexels, Samantha Vo and YEK