These hot and heavy designers are sexing up sustainable fashion – Dazed

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Making is Hot Alterist campaign

Karthur BuildsPhotography Ben McManus

We speak to the founders of upcycling marketplace Alterist about their ‘Making is Hot’ campaign, which centres sustainability by shedding clothes and slathering on the baby oil

Karthur Builds strides into shot, slathered in baby oil, wearing a tiny apron. But you don’t need to slam your laptop shut when you hear someone coming through the front door. He (alongside three fellow makers) is oiled up and breathing heavily in the name of sustainability. 

It’s all the vision of Martina Sorghi and Hannah Standen, co-founders of Alterist, the upcycled fashion marketplace. Their new campaign, Making is Hot, is designed to show that sustainability is sexy, turning the lens on the makers and designers who are transforming everything from damaged fabrics to old spoons into covetable, bespoke fashion. “It’s a peek into their sexy, sustainable world,” says Standen. “It’s about giving importance to who’s behind the garment rather than the garment itself.”

Despite the successes of designers like Duran Lantink and Conner Ives, upcycling is still dogged by the perception that it’s a homey pursuit which belongs on Etsy and tradwife blogs – but with their new campaign, Alterist emphatically proves otherwise.

Making is Hot features four designers from Alterist’s 100+ strong community of makers. Karthur Builds hammers away at his work bench, Geo Gregory of Geo Knits Slow writhes around on the sofa with her needles, Corinna Francavilla of NINA caresses her kitschy textiles, and Smart Urhiofe from NOT FAR BEHIND spends some quality shirtless time with his sewing machine. “The four characters you see in the video, that’s really them. It was all quite spontaneous,” says Sorghi.

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Group 2

Clockwise left to right: Karthur Builds, Geo Gregory, Smart Urhiofe, Corinna FrancavillaPhotography Ben McManus

Even when the makers don’t have sweat dripping slowly down their brows, upcycling is a hotbed of innovation, creativity, and vision. It flourishes beyond the bounds of the tried and tested fashion system that churns out more and more of the same. “One of the most beautiful things about upcycling is that everything is bespoke, it’s limited edition. There’s a creative process that goes into curating and crafting every piece,” says Standen.

“Each piece is designed and produced by myself, but the fabrics play a huge role in how a piece is further designed,” says Urhiofe, who specialises in making jackets from deadstock fabrics which he sources from across the UK. “I’ve been using deadstock fabrics for over ten years because the fashion industry is insane and filled with waste and mass production.” 

Karthur Builds’ chosen materials are found and recycled metals. Trained under Dr Noki (aka JJ Hudson) as an apprentice, he started out making rings from spoons and graduated onto masks, cuffs, rings, and other chunky, experimental adornments, each with a hidden detail in them, whether it’s from an old piece of cutlery or a silver dinner plate. “I use recycled materials because I’ve found them to be much more inspiring than a plain sheet of metal. Every object comes with its own unique level of detail that I get to celebrate and take inspiration from,” he says.

“I’ve been using deadstock fabrics for over ten years because the fashion industry is insane and filled with waste and mass production” – Smart Urhiofe

From its campaign to the designers it welcomes on board, Alterist has a definitive point of view. The pieces on the platform feel exciting – they have the energy we see from breakthrough designers when they’re still in that exhilarating, agitating stage before they succumb to the realities of commercialisation. Yes, they’re being made in the right way, and they support Alterist’s mission of reducing textile waste, but it’s the desire to innovate within those responsible boundaries that shines through. “A lot of the designers on the platform have just come out of fashion school, and they’re really excited to look at new ways of making and creating,” says Standen. “We’re really championing creative people who are fashion forward, innovative, and not afraid to push the boundaries of fashion.”

Standen and Sorghi met in 2019 when they were volunteering for an environmentalist campaigning group in London that was targeting the ills of the fashion industry. While they were doing a lot to highlight the issues, they felt they wanted to offer solutions too. They connected with lots of upcycling brands through their campaigning, and – after going through a series of business accelerator programmes and winning some vital grants – the pair launched Alterist in December 2022, with a key concept in mind: fashion is culture and culture has the power to drive change. “Fashion is a communication tool,” says Sorghi. “Our community of designers use it to express who they are and what they’re doing differently. We welcome everyone as they are.”

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Making is Hot Alterist campaign

Smart Urhiofe, NOT FAR BEHINDPhotography Ben McManus

Kathur Builds describes Alterist as “aggressively community-based”. It celebrates the individuality of the makers and the pieces they create, while uniting everyone under a collectivist mindset and mission. “Platforms like Alterist will help carve a new haven for creatives in this near-apocalyptic time we find ourselves in,” he says.

Next steps for Alterist include a London pop-up from March 15-26, and the development of workshops to combine education with creativity. But for now, they want us to stop and appreciate the makers who are reshaping the fashion landscape for their skill, commitment and, let’s face it, their ability to make captivating eye contact while a fan blows their hair in slow motion. “Fast fashion has plagued the world long enough. The new hottest fashion of this generation is handmade and sustainably sourced,” says Karthur Builds. It’s official: making is hot.

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