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A Dress, Tiara and Earrings Made of Old CDs is Modeled at the ScrapsKC ReVision Upcycled Fashion Show.

ScrapsKC ReVision: More Than Just a Fashion Show

Creative Reuse Center Gets Inventive With Waste Diversion

This first of what will become an annual event for ScrapsKC occurred on October 12. The unique occasion called ReVision highlighted the work of their Kansas City creative reuse center. The event – an upcycled fashion show – proved how virtually any item can be repurposed with a little creativity.

While ReVision only takes place one evening a year, it is an extension of what ScrapsKC and recycled materials resource centers around the country strive to do – divert waste from landfills by upcycling to get the most out of materials.

We spoke with ScrapsKC founder and executive director Brenda Mott about the creative reuse center movement and what ReVision meant to the Kansas City community.

Two Young Models Walk the Runway in Upcycled Dresses at the ScrapsKC ReVision Fashion Show.

What Is Upcycled Fashion?

The concept of upcycled fashion stems from the basic definition of upcycling, which is when you take something previously made and repurpose it into something new. So, in the world of clothing and fashion, it is when you create a new piece of clothing by taking an old material and reforming it into a completely new product. While the most common upcycled fashion comes from repurposing everyday clothes — shirts, pants, shoes, etc.— it is not limited to just fabric items. Accessories like hats, necklaces and bracelets are prime candidates for upcycled fashion, too.

The Creative Reuse Center Movement in the US

Recycled material resource centers are making a big impact within their communities by offering used and often donated items at a highly discounted price, making the materials available to more people than ever before.

Brenda Mott, Founder and Executive Director of ScrapsKC“Reusing materials is a concept that has been around forever and used by many out of necessity. Unfortunately, over time, reuse has given way to a disposable society and primarily a recycling focus which also leaves a carbon footprint on our community.”

Brenda Mott | Founder and Executive Director, ScrapsKC
 

The concept of reusing items and making them available for resale isn’t new. What these resource centers for recycled materials do, though, is take the concepts of reuse and recycling to the next level by not only diverting waste from landfills, but finding ways to incorporate these resources back into the community.

“Each week, we receive 5,000 pounds of donated materials from community members, businesses and manufacturers that must be processed, sorted, organized and put on the floor for resale,” Mott said. “By diverting these materials from the landfill, we are able to sell the items to our community, provide free and inexpensive materials to local teachers and our location acts as a daytime refuge for the homeless.”

While it’s tough to say just how many creative reuse centers exist around the country due to their grassroots nature, Mott said there are few mainstays that anyone wanting to join the movement could use as models. “There are several large creative reuse centers around the U.S. and many of them have been in business for ten or more years.”

Kids Are Taught How to Creatively Reuse Markers.

How ScrapsKC Diverts Waste and Gives Back to Kansas City

In a way, the initial seeds of ScrapsKC were planted when Mott was a child.

“Having grown up with parents who lived through the Depression and World War II, reuse was a lifestyle my family lived; mending clothes, using sour cream containers to store leftovers, creating play from whatever way around,” Mott said.

In 2016, that seed grew into the creative reuse center that has served the Kansas City area since, helping to divert 135 tons of waste from landfills in the process. While the bulk of donations to ScrapsKC come directly from the community it serves, Mott said that she has received materials delivered from other states in the Midwest and even from as far as Arizona and Las Vegas.

Additionally, the success of the center has allowed Mott to connect with the homeless of Kansas City, giving them a creative way to use their abilities.

“After years of teaching and working with the homeless, it became apparent that children and homeless are some of the most creative people who reuse,” Mott said. “From this, Scraps became a way to create a space where everyone is welcome to share and learn with and about each together as we care for our environment.”

In fact, Mott said that ScrapsKC has become a refuge for the homeless, a place where they can be creative, find work and help improve their situations.

ScrapsKC logo.“The homeless volunteer at ScrapsKC in exchange for food and survival items, in addition to providing them with a purpose and friendship. Our daily operations are greatly supported by the assistance we receive from our homeless friends.”

Brenda Mott | Founder and Executive Director, ScrapsKC
 

As the store continued to grow, so did the opportunities for Mott and ScrapsKC to give back to the Kansas City community, including one of her favorite programs — the School Supply Drive.

“At the end of every school year, we ask schools to collect the supplies that students are throwing away and donate them to us,” Mott explained. “Over the last three years, we have collected over 24,000 pounds of school supplies that would be headed to the landfill.”

Those supplies are then cleaned and repurposed over the summer with the help of volunteers. Once the new school year comes around, the supplies are distributed to area teachers for free.

Brenda Mott, Founder and Executive Director of ScrapsKC“We have been able to provide free school supplies to over 500 teachers serving more than 12,500 students. It’s a joy to see the excitement of the teachers when they come in to pick out the supplies that they would otherwise have to purchase out of their own pockets.”

Brenda Mott | Founder and Executive Director, ScrapsKC

A Model and Designer Talk at the ScrapsKC ReVision Fashion Show.

ReVision: Fashion with Compassion

The purpose of ReVision was to showcase the creativity of Kansas City and prove that you can find another function for pretty much anything.

Outfits were crafted by designers of all ages from some of the most obscure items that wouldn’t normally be used as clothing materials, if not for the vision of creative people who saw their reuse potential. Among those items were CDs, plasticware and even disposable contact lens cases.

In addition to the excitement from the show itself, Mott said it was amazing to see how the community responded to the event, including one of the homeless women who regularly volunteers at ScrapsKC.

“She took great pride in being able to show our volunteers and guests around the store and help create a fun-filled evening,” Mott said. “At the end of the evening, she couldn’t stop talking about how much fun it was and about all of the clothing in the show. The evening gave her a chance to be a leader and an enjoyable evening in a safe environment.”

In the end, Mott said it’s great that the event was enjoyable, but the true proof of its success is seen in the lasting impact that it can have.

ScrapsKC logo.“During the show, several young children and teens in our audience changed their entire concept about clothing and reuse. We heard many of the youth express excitement about changing their own clothing and wanting to be part of next year’s show.”

Brenda Mott | Founder and Executive Director, ScrapsKC
 

A Little Help Goes a Long Way

The existence of creative reuse centers is a community effort. While there may be only a few that handle the day-to-day operations, it is the volunteers and donations from the community that keep the mission moving forward.

We’re proud to help support ScrapsKC and other nonprofit organizations around the county in their efforts to give back to their communities. Whether it’s through an upcycled fashion show or a neighborhood cleanup, helping others is an idea we will always strive to support.

Curious how some other nonprofits around the country are repurposing and reusing materials? Find out more about efforts in Cincinnati, St. Louis and Atlanta.