Eco-friendly Fashion with Style

An interview with fashion designer Raquel Arañon

More and more movie stars and celebrities are opting for recycled fashion and ‘green’ outfits. Handbags and purses made out of sweet wrappers and drink cans, necklaces and bracelets made from aluminium foil, dresses fashioned from hospital sheets, jackets from old theatre curtains; even Victoria Beckham has been seen sporting a bag made out of old tyres. Yes, recycled fashion is very much a current trend, and one of which Raquel Arañon is well aware.

A creative fashion designer by profession, Raquel is currently teaching fashion at the College of Design of the Balearic Islands and has recently begun work as a ‘cool-hunter’ for – a blog which presents fashion as seen on the streets, a portrait of modern day trendsetters. She has presented three wonderful collections with her students, for which she acted as creative director and coordinator. The first one was called ‘‘Comete la moda’’ (Eat Fashion) and featured dresses made from jelly sweets and marshmallows, true works of ephemeral art. The second “Burbujas de Cine” was made exclusively from bubble wrap, a concept which came to her in a dream and which she holds very dear to her heart, as once it was finished it was just as she had dreamt it would be – something they say often happens to great designers. The third collection “Cassette Dressing” is an haute couture collection made from 1000 cassette tapes from the ‘60s.

How do you think of these ideas?
My creative motto is fundamentally to de-contextualize the material I am using: to take it completely out of its context. I have always been a designer but I am not attracted to using fabrics; I love to recycle objects and create things which catch people’s attention. As a group, we design a new type of material based on my idea and we treat it as if it were fabric. We also develop our ideas from an artistic point of view. I love any kind of creative challenge.

“Cassette Dressing” was a real tribute to a product which is no longer in use.
I had been toying with the idea of ‘‘Cassette Dressing’’ for a year. I have moved house 17 times in my life and I would always have these three big boxes full of about 400 old cassettes, so I thought lots of people probably had drawers full of them. The funny thing was, when we were trying to get hold of more, no one wanted to give them up. The cassette reminds me of a beautiful part of my childhood, and holidays; their use coincided with a very important time in Spanish history, and the songs on them tend to be very well known and are still very much a part of the history of music. I suppose everyone felt the same way. Maybe that is also why the exhibition was such a success, even on a national level.

How do you go about bringing a cassette to class and telling your students they are going to base a whole collection on them?
My creative capacity is limitless, so I just took a cassette apart and things developed from there. However, I did do some experiments and research before presenting the idea to my students to make sure I had answers to all the possible issues; once I was ready, we all began working together and the collection began to take shape. We worked with the boxes, the tape, the frame, the nails, the reels and the covers; to the latter we applied a layer of latex to give them more consistency and a retro look.

The result was a genuine example of haute couture . . .
It was very elaborate: the tape was woven using needles, we applied heat to change the shape of the cassettes and to obtain volume, we put them in the oven to make them change colour and shape, we researched the material and sewed things by hand and using sewing machines. And what is most important is that it can all be worn, because it is all tailored to a size 38 and is treated like all haute couture. The designs were all influenced by different things, from ‘60s fashion to Lady Gaga. We played the music from the cassettes during the exhibition, the people attending danced and sang, making the music an integral part of the fashion on display. It was a true tribute to the era and to the cassette created in Germany in the ‘60s.

Should all fashion students be studying recycling?
Definitely, I think recycling is the one of the most organic things, and everyday there is more rubbish and there are materials within it which can be used for many different things, such as furniture, clothes, decoration – in short, the possibilities are endless.

In fact, all the big labels are beginning to promote the philosophy of not throwing things away; everything is useful and has a purpose.
Yes, bubble wrap for instance, metres and metres of which are thrown away on a daily basis, is hugely versatile. That’s how we created the complex dresses which feature in “Burbujas de Cine”. All the designs in these two recycled collections are unique. The new green fashion uses what we would have otherwise thrown in the rubbish. It can be as simple as making a handbag from an old pair of jeans. The aim is to make something which is at once useful and fashionable. It’s about giving a new lease of life to something that already exists.

The fashion design students at the college of design of the Balearic Islands who participated in “Cassette Dressing” were: Elisa Carriches, Constanza Cechetto, Victoria Fuertes, Elsa Garcia, M. Leyre Mahillo, Diana Mendoza, Gemma Méndez, Juan Antonio Molina, Silvia Armirez , Omara Royo, Yamay Blanco, Ainhoa de la Iglesia, Marta Morey, Jurena Muñoz, Mariana Puente, Gemma Reche and Bibiana Román.