Gabriella Smith #PájaraPintaBirds

Tell us a bit about yourself....

As founder of Upcycle Project, I have made it my goal to raise awareness about the fashion industry's waste. I have developed hands-on workshops, student mentorship programs, inspiring discussions, TEDx Talks, and disruptive events and products that result in creative circular solutions. As a conscious observer, I believe the future of fashion will evolve through textile waste management, innovation, sustainable sourcing, and ethical production.

What's an ethical closet?

It has been increasingly difficult for fashion lovers to determine ethical brands and what brands are greenwashing. All the confusion has led us to curate brands that displayed a list of characteristics aligned with our values to build an ethical closet. 

The characteristics that make up our ethical closet include: transparent supply chains, paying workers a living wage, support craftsmanship, use upcycled, recycled, organic, or natural materials, committing to social causes, and/or have circularity programs to collect and repair clothing. 

The Ethical Closet Series helps consumers discover, explore, and learn about ethical fashion brands re-shaping the industry.

How did you start being a sustainable fashion ambassador and why?

As a consumer, I was always curious about where things came from and who was behind the product. In 2015, after watching The True Cost, a documentary "about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our world," I knew more needed to be done to raise awareness on the wastage of fashion into the landfills. Soon after, UpCycle Project was born out of curiosity. How can one keep enjoying fashion without the guilt of being a part of one of the most polluting industries in the world? The answer was in the landfill. Using waste to create new designs doesn't make them dull.

On the contrary, it makes them much more exciting. As consumers that want to be a part of the fashion world, we found our place between the unwanted: the forgotten button-down shirts from the dry cleaners, the discarded school uniforms, and the used sheets and napkins from hotels. It wasn't sexy, but the fashion industry isn't always glitz and glam. I believe we have enough to satiate our hunger for newness by cultivating creative designs with what's already out there. My mission is to bring creativity, circularity, and innovation to the waste created by humanity so that we can continue to live on earth longer. And have fun with fashion while we're at it.

What does style mean to you?

Personal style is a form of expression that is ever evolving as we experience life. In 2016 I broke up with fast fashion, like it was a bad boyfriend… Like with any breakup, it was awful at first; we had millions of friends in common, saw each other everywhere, and were still very attracted to one another. I have to be honest, there were a few casual encounters after our matter how "good" it seemed at the time, I was always left feeling empty and disappointed; it was toxic. I knew that the shiny exterior was only a cover for the careless take, make, waste model our relationship was built on. Although the doors are still open for me, and there were a few late-night social media stalking episodes, I decided once and for all to end it. I am proud to say I broke up with Fast Fashion for good.  

Favorite book or podcast?

These days I am enjoying books much more than podcasts; these are a few of my favorites: 

  • Deluxe and Fashionpolis by Dana Thomas
  • Unraveled by Maxime Bedat 
  • The Upcycle by Michael Braungart and William McDonough
  • The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts 

Best piece of advice for these rare times?

  • Don't be afraid to challenge the way things are done. 
  • Be consistent. 
  • If you fail, fail fast and move on. 
  • Better done than perfect. 
  • Follow your instinct. 

What does #ShiningFromWithin mean to you?

The light from within is the only one that shines. 

What's your favorite Pájara Pinta piece and why?

The Pajarito Hat is my absolute favorite. It is a fantastic conversation starter that allows for genuine connection and an incredible story about how the making of the hat supports artisan communities and provides for Colombian craftmanship to continue to thrive. 


 FOLLOW: @theupcycleproject @gabriellasmith I |  TEDx “I broke up with fast fashion, and you should too."

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