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Richmond KPU student turns old denim into award-winning shoes

Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU)’s Nina Rozin used old jeans and buttons

KPU design student’s idea turns discarded denim into elegant shoes

A Richmond university design student has won a top award after making high-heeled shoes out of old jeans, button jackets and out-of-style overalls.

While most people see junk to get thrown out or donated, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU)’s Nina Rozin sees jewels.

Rozin has designed the shoes using old denim and won the 2023 Upcycled Design Competition, hosted by KPU’s Wilson School of Design (WSD).

“Upcycling is creating a conversation, it’s creating a movement, it’s creating informed customers,” said Rozin.

“I want to inspire all of us to feel beautiful and special with the simplest materials and celebrate life with an idea of a little less consumerism, a little less consumption, and walking towards a more positive future.”

For the competition, the Wilson School of Design partnered with Our Social Fabric, a non-profit textile recycling organization.

By demonstrating the viability of transforming fabric and material waste into upcycled design concepts, the competition aims to create awareness of Our Social Fabric’s efforts and inspire the talented emerging designers at WSD.

Participants were invited to create a three-dimensional design using recycled textiles and found objects, with the goal of making the world a better place.

Rozin, a shoemaker and international student from Israel, is a graduate of the London College of Fashion and is now furthering her education at KPU by studying fashion marketing.

She found inspiration for the upcycling project from 20th century French shoemaker Roger Vivier, who designed expensive fabric shoes for celebrities and royalty.

“I really wanted to match this idea of luxury and grandeur with very simple fabric, so I chose denim,” she added.

“It seemed such a mundane fabric to try and elevate.”

Rozin also considered the environmental harm denim creates.

“Denim is very wasteful. It uses huge amount of water to produce the cotton, and the dyes used to create the famous blue colour have devastating effects on the environment,” said Rozin.

“I wanted to raise some awareness of the harmful side of denim production and how problematic the way that we source our materials might be.”

For winning the competition, Rozin will receive a $2,000 prize from Our Social Fabric. Emma Juhala’s fibre art shawl design earned second place and a $1,500 prize, while Mehdi Abbasi and Elise Charpentier won the third-place prize worth $1,000 for a dress inspired by protests against injustice toward women in Iran.

Winning the People’s Choice Award, which comes with a $500 prize, was Eren Berg for a design of multifunctional pants using fabric waste.

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