Value Village Is King: A Lookbook Exploring Sustainable Fashion

Over the past few years, we have witnessed the gradual growth of thrift shops in Malaysia. Originally, thrifting was meant as a way for the lower class to “survive”, as suggested in Mick Jenkin’s song, “Value Village”. However, just like any other culture that becomes trendy, thrifting is now seen as an accessible way for people to explore and express their unique styles at a relatively lower cost, compared to high fashion. With that being said, Fifth recently organised their first ever passion project photographed by Sarah Hobbs, in collaboration with several other creatives in Klang Valley as introduced below. Besides being a fun project, it also aimed to showcase how different materials can be upcycled into pieces with individualistic styles.

First off, we have Enoch, the owner of Fifth who initiated the project. To achieve a fractional and layered look, he sewed sofa blankets that he had found in a thrift store onto an apron before attaching that material onto the pants. This creates an accessorized and layered half-pants-half-dress bottom. “Since we are doing a fun project customizing and upcycling pieces, I wanted to create a half-dress, half-pants kinda vibe,” Enoch explains. This look also reflects his experimental nature when it comes to fashion as well as his belief that men can wear dresses or skirts as well. Similarly, this barrier breaking view also relates to Jaden’s look.

“The fashion industry is too often a driver of exploitation and inequality.”

Jaden, an Interior Architecture major with an immense interest in anything creative, created a look revolving around masculinity and femininity. He feels that: “The fashion industry is too often a driver of exploitation and inequality. Therefore, I was inspired to design a dress that shows the feminine side of women and yet normalizes women being seen in powerful positions [within] male-dominated industries at the same time.” Indeed, when observed closely, the dress has both masculine and feminine elements which works cohesively as a look on the female model’s body.

As for the third look, the founder of Curated Garms, Ilyas presented a Boro patchwork look. Boro is a Japanese term derived from “boroboro”, which means tattered or repaired. The technique originated during the Edo Period and was widely used by the peasant farmers to repair worn-out clothes. To sew the patches, different kinds of stitching methods can be used and Sashiko is one of them. Besides being functional, it is also a way to create simple embroidery patterns on fabric. Inspired by the history and culture of Boro patchwork, Ilyas has used old denim and tees as patches. He has also expressed that this look that we see is a work in progress as the authentic Boro patchwork takes many hours to accomplish, given that countless patches are used.

Individualised yet wearable by anyone (regardless of gender), these are the main points portrayed by Rira’s look. “The concept behind my custom clothing is to make simple designs that anybody can wear and, at the same time, is something unique and different,” explains Rira. Originally from Japan, Rira is a student at Raffles College. She has put together a look using customised old clothes inspired by her previous artwork and inspiration she had gotten from Instagram. Besides being unisex — now a seemingly recurring element throughout this project, her look also displays her inspiration and art direction as a creative in a nutshell.

For the last look, it was designed by Sarah and Li Yi, the brains behind Shanghai Renaissance Vintage — an online curated vintage shop that does not only sell fashion but also aims to write about the history and culture behind it. Just like the concept of their brand, the main inspiration of the look came from the traditional Chinese bodice. Sarah and Li Yi had upcycled a dress that came with a beautiful embroidered centerpiece. They had chosen to make the centerpiece the main body of the bodice and altered the closure to two back knots instead of a halter collar like the traditional Chinese bodice.

These five creative looks not only show that fashion does not need to be brand new but they also prove that old items can be transformed into new ideas and forms. Beyond providing a sense of reassurance that fashion can be sustainable, this project also aims to promote forms-breaking fashion styles and the notion that everyone should experiment with different styles and materials.

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