We’re at the mid-way point of Fashion Revolution week, which returns in its fifth year to commemorate half a decade since the Rana Plaza collapse horrifically killed 1,134 garment factory workers and injured countless others. It’s mission? To shed light on the people behind your wardrobe, encouraging us all to ask the question… #WhoMadeMyClothes?

At its launch, panelists discussed the importance of championing skilled artisans and bringing local textile production back to the UK. Now, we’ve been introduced to the myriad possibilities of deconstructing and reconstructing recycled trainers, courtesy of shoe designer Helen Kirkum and a collaboration with Depop.

Helen Kirkum leads a workshop in upcycling trainers.

In between taking a scalpel to a mountain of love-worn trainers – out of which sprung personalised key rings – we learned more about the Nothing New initiative from the East London-based footwear artist.

Helen Kirkum
“Sustainability is something I’ve always been interested in. I have a very ‘sneaker head’-driven following, so to get those people behind Fashion Revolution – behind sustainability – is really exciting. By creating shoes that mash together loads of disregarded products, you get an idea of the scale of the problem. I guess that’s where it started from.

Creations in progress.

I came from a very traditional ‘brown shoe’ background and, originally, I was just interested in learning more about trainers and how they were made. This led me on to visiting recycling centres, basically so that I could get my hands on loads; it was there that I was made aware of how many shoes are discarded and how certain trainers are just so throw-away. Coming from a background of making traditional brogues that have longevity – in that they can all be re-soled – I became fixated on the fact that many trainers just aren’t made in that way. 

My idea was to create a product that looked aesthetically cool and interesting – something that made people want to snap it up, before they learned about the materials and where the products came from. People had to first want the design because they liked it, and then to secondly like it for the fact that it was recycled.

Fashion writer, Josephine Platt, triumphant with her finished result.

I tend to take a lot of shoes, break them all down into their component pieces and start from there; it can take up to 15 or 60 components to construct one pair. It’s like building a car or a collage – everything is completely bespoke.”