Wasteless Apparel: An Interview With Melanie Reyes

TO MEET MELANIE REYES is to meet two distinctly different women. The first — the version that interacts with the general public and participates in the mundane routines of 21st century living — is pleasant, respectful and sociable in all the ways you might expect from a young professional. There’s nothing wrong with that version, but it pales in comparison to the one you meet the moment the conversation turns to matters of style and fashion.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll see it before you hear it: her eyes light up, and an irrepressible grin spreads across her lips. When she finally speaks, it’s with the infectious, frenetic enthusiasm of an artist truly in love with her craft.

The creative force behind Wasteless Apparel, Reyes channels that passion into bold, unique looks composed of upcycled or reworked vintage clothing — choices she hopes will encourage others to adopt a more environmentally friendly approach to dressing well.

We first discovered Reyes’ work late last year, and immediately knew we wanted to sit down and pick her brain. What follows is a lightly edited conversation with this up and coming Springfield designer.

Deitra Mag: Give us the 30-second pitch of your background and how you came to be what you are now.

Melanie Reyes: What all started it was when I did an internship in New York with a manufacturer. This was a smaller one for New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week designers to come and get their stuff made. Basically, seeing how wasteful it was — when they’re done with a fabric, they’ll toss it, and have heaps of this prototype clothing in a closet. And I’m like, ‘What are you going to do with that?’ And they had no idea. So that kind of sparked my idea that we needed more sustainability in the fashion industry. That’s when I started doing research and blogging and seeing how we’re the number two polluter in the world. And I also realized I wanted to be my own boss, I started my own business.

DM: Take us back even further. How did you become interested in fashion design?

MR: My grandma taught me to hand sew when I was five years old, and I became obsessed with it and the embroidery. Then, I started wanting to design clothing because I wanted to make my sister Christmas presents by myself. In middle school, I started thrifting and thought, ‘Oh, I can turn these into something way cooler,’ so I started doing that. And it just spiraled from there. In high school, I got really into reworking my own fashion and wanting to be different than this pool of people, you know? I just wanted to stand out a little bit more. Then, I decided to go to college for fashion, even though I knew it was very competitive and probably wouldn’t pay as good as another career, I was like, ‘I want to be happy and creating is the happiest I am.’ It’s like my form of meditation. So, that’s when I decided to do that and I’ve been obsessed ever since.

DM: Let’s talk about the pieces you made for this shoot. First, tell us your overall inspiration for the shoot, then break down each look.

MR: The basic inspiration for this was old, classic rock, Jimi Hendrix-inspired fashion. I love the sexuality of the 80s — the whole expression of it, the crazy prints — but I wanted to add a twist of different decades in it.

So, for the first look I was inspired by 18th century binding corsets and how that was so prominent, and I wanted to give a little twist to it, so I took a button up Ed Hardy shirt and I used the back with a really sick print on it … and turned that into the corset. And I wanted to pair it with cheetah pants, which would be silk, because I really love how silk pants look on anyone. I thought that would look sick together because it looks very ‘classic rock’ to me.

For the male look, I really wanted to take a leather jacket, because I love leather jackets, and I found this really sick one at Red Racks, and I was like, ‘Oh, that would be a really sick one to rework.’ So, I took a vintage The Who band t-shirt and created the pattern work to perfectly outline the seams of where the darts are for the back, and I took some leftover cheetah fabric and added that to the front, and then put some fringe just to add some detail and movement to the jacket.

The third look is a reworked t-shirt that I found — super extra large and it had these cool eagles on it, and I thought, ‘Oh, that’d be a sick skirt,’ so I turned it into a skirt with a slit. I paired it with a Champion shirt that I reworked, which was this baggy men’s shirt, and I made it a small crop with this huge cutout on the top that goes up to the shoulder for an edgy look.

DM: All of the looks fit well into your overall oeuvre, which is very bold, very unique and very different. Obviously you want to be open to anybody, but do you have a vision for the type of person who will wear your outfits? What is their life like? Where are these clothes meant to be worn?

MR: When I style for someone, I guess I style for what I like … because I’m not someone who likes specific styles, I like to dress as essentially different people every day — I like to be edgy, preppy, messy — so, when I make something, I make it for someone who’s like that, who wants to wear different styles every other day. Someone who can throw on anything and add whatever and just make it look like ‘a look’ — even if, to someone who doesn’t have style, it wouldn’t look good. If you can wear a garbage bag and make it look good — that kind of person, who can throw anything together.

DM: It’s funny you mention that. Our last runway had a sci-fi theme, and we surprised ourselves by how many cool looks we could make out of what, in regular life, would have been boring old lady sweaters.

MR: That’s just how fashion works. It could be something completely ugly, but on a certain person who knows how to style it, their attitude makes it look good. It’s all about how you present yourself. If you think it looks good, and you portray that it looks good, everyone around you is going to think that. That’s why I feel like reworked is becoming so major, because a lot of people could look at reworked things and be like, ‘Oh, the original was better, that’s kind of ugly,’ but if you wear it totally confidently and give it that street look, it will look super dope.

DM: Your reworked collection seems to feature a lot of band t-shirts, specifically.

MR: I’ve been doing band t-shirts since forever. Way back when, I had an Etsy shop called Spaced Out, and I worked with band t-shirts and reworked things like that. Then it just came back out of nowhere. Also, my uncle gave me a ton of vintage band shirts because he hoards them, so he gave them all to me and was like, ‘Do something with them.’ He has a warehouse. He was in a band, so he has collected, throughout the years, all band t-shirts.

DM: Does your taste in music inform, in some way, your stylistic choices?

MR: My taste in music is all classic rock and that’s pretty much what I grew up on. My uncle was in a band. I grew up on his stuff. My dad was a classic rock fan to the core. So, my whole living was based around that kind of love for music. And also, major classic rap and hip hop — I grew up on that, too. So I would say that taste in music is portrayed in my fashion and my lifestyle.

DM: We’re doing this interview just after the new year, so it seems like a good time to talk about your future aspirations. Do you have any big plans for Wasteless Apparel in 2020?

MR: I’m a major fan of pop-ups, I just need to get a lot more hype or traffic so that people would get excited about doing pop-ups. I’ve seen other smaller businesses do it and it’s so popular. So that would be something I’m interested in, or doing a collaboration with another business that does that.

DM: You mentioned doing some blogging earlier. Is that going to make a reappearance at some point?

MR: I used to have a blog where I talked about sustainability and how fashion affects the planet, and I do want to get back into it. I’m currently redoing my entire website and taking pictures all over again to open it back up, and I want to start a blog where I have a whole thing about how to go sustainable and what the steps are to start. A lot of people ask me how to start becoming sustainable, and it’s very hard to do all at once, but there are a few early steps I can teach them that really got the ball rolling for me. A ton of people want to just get right to it, but habits are hard to break. If you change over time, then new habits will form and you’ll become a completely sustainable person.

DM: That just about covers everything we wanted to talk about. Is there anything you’d like to add that we didn’t mention?

MR: One thing I’d like to mention is that I offer custom sizing on everything I do. Anyone ordering anything off the website, there’s a section where they can mention anything specific they want — waste, hips, whatever. A lot of people aren’t basic small, medium, large, et cetera … and it really sucks to have clothing that fits in some parts of your body but not all, and it’s a waste of money to buy anything that doesn’t fit you perfectly.

DM: It gets back to what you were saying earlier about how the same outfit can look great or terrible depending on the person. Fit counts for a lot in that equation.

MR: There’s a lot of people who talk to me about that, and that’s why I take the extra step to make it worth buying. You’re getting your money’s worth because it’s going to all fit perfectly to you and you won’t have to second guess it.

DM: In terms of sustainability and in terms of common sense, there’s also a lot of value in having one item of extremely high quality versus a bunch of subpar stuff.

MR: That’s why some people are kind of iffy about going with sustainable fashion, because it is expensive, I’m not going to lie, but those clothes are going to last you way longer than you getting a cheap couple pieces of clothing that you’re going to trash in a couple of weeks.   DM

To view Melanie’s work, purchase an item or commission a custom piece, visit Wasteless Apparel on Instagram. For more information, visit wastelessapparel.com.

Written + Photographed by Charles Goodin
Modeled by Kristofer Clay + Devin Sales
Hair by Kristen Lentz
Makeup by Coryn Dione Clark
Clothing by Wasteless Apparel

Contents property of Deitra Magazine, Copyright 2020. Reproduction Prohibited, All Rights Reserved.

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