The Utah artists and designers building a conscious fashion community through upcycling

Good News Notes:

“Smack dab in the middle of the American West and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, Salt Lake City has a history of drawing people in. For many, the Utah city is known as a destination for skiing and winter sports, but in recent years, the arts scene has flourished. “The SLC creative scene is definitely getting bigger and stronger,” says Mario Cartes, a 22-year-old artist and fashion designer. “There are new creatives showcasing their hard work and talent, whether they make music, clothes, pottery or host events,” adds Akouya Johan Sapoye, who upcycles thrifted Goodwill garments. “What I love the most is the diversity in the creative scene.”

Since he was young, Mario has had a fascination with drawing, graffiti and painting — especially on clothes. As he got older, he taught himself how to sew. Akouya got into thrifting through a friend in 2019, and started making patchwork pants, hand-stitched durags and hoodies from his spoils. The pair are now part of a tight-knit community of young folks in Salt Lake City — most of whom met on social media — that are passionate about thrifting and upcycling eco-conscious garments. “I think that we all have an interest in upcycling because we see something that others don’t in unsung recycled garments and fabrics. And it allows us to express our creativity in a way that we couldn’t with non-recycled garments,” says Giles, who taught himself how to screen print at 16 and now sells his designs on Instagram. “I think it also allows each piece to be unique in their own way, which is a big thing for me.”

Aside from the unique designs on the clothes these artists craft, what makes Salt Lake City’s creative community so special is it’s size. It’s small enough that everyone knows everyone, and within this crew specifically, there’s constant collaboration. “We ride for each other,” Akouya says. “We help each other with styling, modelling, promotions and photography. If somebody needs ink to screen print but can’t get it, somebody in the community has your back. If you need materials to continue making clothing, somebody in the community has extra material and will gladly bring it to you.”  

Pop-ups with local markets, or even in artists’ own garages, where the whole community comes together to sell their artupcycled garments and to host skateboarding contests, have become an important part of the scene too. “After meeting some of my friends, we decided to make some of our own events to help push this culture to the best it can be,” Evan Erickson, who started doing monthly drops of original screen-printed goods during the pandemic, tells i-D. “Last year, we had three full-experience pop-up shops in my garage where we fully painted the walls, made several paintings and created T-shirts for each event.”…

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