Fashion’s eco-makeover is (finally) picking up speed, with more designers pushing their ethical mission statements in 2k18. Season’s seem almost passé now. With daily reports on excessive water pollution, toxic chemical use and global textile waste, conscious consumption (buy less, mend more etc.) is overhauling our past fast fashion addiction. Official Rebrand is our new favourite green label to know from 24-year-old NYC creative MI.
Official Rebrand (OR) revives clothing that has been discarded, breathing new life into what was once considered waste. Through painting, drawing and other alterations, non-binary designer MI Leggett’s “rebranding” process proposes a sustainable alternative to the competitive consumption encouraged by today’s social and industrial norms. This transformation also nods to the fluidity of identity and encourages people to take personal agency over their self presentation. Rebranding dissociates garments from gendered categories and reintroduces them without arbitrary social constraints. We caught up with the fashion activist to find out more…
Hey MI! When and why did you start Official Rebrand? How is it different from other brands out there at the moment?
Always an ardent environmentalist, I made garments from repurposed items all my life. The idea to start Official Rebrand however, was born out of my 2016 internship Berlin’s visionary post drag queen and gender non-conforming fashion designer Fábio M Silva. During this time I was first becoming part of the queer art/party scene in Berlin and I finally felt at home among people who lived according to their own desires, not societal expectations. There, I started painting on clothes and realized how empowering it felt to put my own marks over these pre-made consumer objects that were considered complete. By altering them, I challenged their stagnancy. As I was starting to discover that my own identity was fluid, I realized an article of clothing could be fluid as well, infinitely changeable. Likewise, by opening up my gender expression and coming out as non-binary, I realized there was limitless room for creativity with my personal self expression.
Transforming and rebranding garments helped me define my own identity and empower my self presentation. I began posting pictures of the renewed pieces and people soon began asking to buy them and it has all grown organically from there. I have since started a brand that rejects traditional notions of consumption and binary gender, both of which are pillars of the fashion industry. Instead of creating new garments, I select pieces that have already been consumed and discarded. I rebrand them with painting, drawing, and other alterations so that they may be consumed again. I also reintroduce the renewed pieces without gendered confines. Gendering clothes only limits us. We should select garments because we like them and ourselves in them, not because societal norms and gendered expectations say they are appropriate for us.
What would you like to see less of in fashion?
I’d like to see less clothing. Clothing waste is a huge problem that has dramatically worsened since the onslaught of fast fashion. Consumers are told they should buy as much clothing for as cheap as possible, and the result is catastrophic. Workers are underpaid and their human rights are violated. Small, original designers are constantly ripped off by large corporations. The environment is pillaged, rivers are poisoned, resources are squandered. It takes the same amount of water to shower for 12 hours as it does to make a single pair of jeans. And yet every season the market is flooded with millions of virgin garments that lack originality and quality.
And, more of?
More of working within excess. There is so much amazing clothing that already exists. And trends are cyclical anyway. The fashion industry should focus more on revitalizing the bountiful resources of vintage and used garments, and appreciate what has already been made. There are really infinite possibilities when it comes to “rebranding” as I like to call it. It is just a question of restructuring the industry and our expectations.
Who or what inspires you the most?
Breaking barriers excites me, especially between different artistic media. I love collaborating with other artists and bringing visions together. Since I work within many media, constantly translating my art practice and visual language from one form to another, I love seeing other artists do the same. I’m currently collaborating with Madge, the experimental pop musician, and and its lots of fun to see her creativity translate from music, to modeling, to video making.
Looking back into art history, Keith Haring is a major creative inspiration for working in this boundary crossing way. By producing kinds of forms from massive murals to tiny keychains, his pivotal body of work made art so much more accessible. He created a powerfully direct visual language and reproduced it en masse. Not everyone can afford to buy a painting in a gallery, but a T-shirt with art printed on it is much more affordable. His media-traversing creativity brought the art world to the rest of the world in a historic way, and that’s quite inspiring.
Describe Official Rebrand in three words?
Transformed clothing, gender-free.
The future of fashion in one word?
For further information follow Official Rebrand on Instagram here.