the unwash: exclusive interview
Fashion designer Anna Molinari’s TikTok went viral upon her first posting in 2020 of her upcycled designs using unconventional materials – mainly trash. The intrigue in her designs propelled Anna to become a full-fledged upcycler and to use her platform to fuel her passion for sustainable fashion. Many are familiar with Anna’s work for her viral dress that provided social and political commentary on social justice movements and the COVID-19 pandemic. The dress was made from newspaper clippings about the pandemic and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement – both intersecting historical moments in United States history. The design included a mask and slit to show a band-aid for the wearer’s Coronavirus vaccine. The dress sparked a meaningful response from viewers resulting in Anna citing this moment as being one she is most proud of as a young designer. Now her platform has over 300,000 followers where she shares her brand’s designs and shares tips on how to begin upcycling. The Unwash sat down with Anna to discuss her takes on sustainable fashion, the responsibility that comes with having a large platform, and her design goals.
What sparked your passion for sustainability within your designs?
I’ve been making clothes since I was eight years old and it all started from watching a marathon of Project Runway. I felt so inspired and fell in love with the concept of fashion. As I was watching the marathon I made my first shirt and from then on I’ve never questioned that it was what I’m supposed to do. My parents taught me to fund my passion so I unintentionally became very scrappy, using mostly second-hand materials from the jump. As I got older and went to college for fashion I began to learn more about the textile industry and how detrimental it is to the environment. This was further confirmation for me that I need to be using second-hand materials. Throughout my education I experimented with sculpture, using recycled materials, I loved working with weird and unconventional materials. In 2020 the second video I posted on TikTok got over a million views where I was showing these sculpture pieces using unconventional materials like a dress I made out of plastic straws. That further solidified that I wanted to keep going down this path. Sustainability has always been at my core and TikTok gives me a larger sense of responsibility to promote sustainability.
“How can I enable people to actually make a difference in their everyday lives?” – Anna Molinari, Fashion Designer
Do you have any process for choosing the materials you use?
I have people keep what they inevitably produce. In the process of keeping my trash, I’ve learned how much we create and I can’t even make enough things to keep up with what I’m using in my everyday life. It’s kind of startling. I also have brand deals where brands will send me their second-hand materials like phone parts from Samsung.
How do you feel about the difference your platform is making?
I often wonder how I can enable people to actually make a difference in their everyday lives. Wearing my brand isn’t necessarily making a difference, more so it’s sending a message. I was thinking about using extra fabric and plastic scraps to stuff a pillow. I then thought why don’t I make decorative pillows where people can then fill them with their own single-use plastics? You don’t have to know anything about fashion to do this and it’s a way to get consumers to think about their single-use plastics.
Where do you hope the fashion industry is going and where do you think it’s actually going?
I don’t understand why we still have factories where people are still treated unfairly. I really don’t understand why fast fashion still exists. There needs to be an actual shift away from fast fashion to slower fashion such as small businesses, second-hand, and clothing swaps. In the long run, we don’t need more clothes, we just need new ways to do clothes. Unfortunately, I think overconsumption and insane trend cycles, and Amazon fashion are going to continue to grow. I hope other young designers like myself and people that shop in the same mindset as I do can start spending their money in smarter ways. If enough people do it, maybe there can be a change.
What is something you hope your audience takes away from your content?
Like I said earlier, we don’t need new clothes, we need new ways to do clothes. What I try to show is that you don’t even need to know how to sew, it’s about thinking outside of the box. I want to encourage people to be creative in a sustainable way which is what I want people to take from my content. When there’s a tangible difference that people are making and there’s a physical way that I’m impacting people is the coolest thing. Once you start thinking as a sustainable creative it’s hard not to at all times, you start to see everything as a project and inspiration.
Out of all of your designs, which is your favorite?
Hands down, the newspaper dress. The reaction I got from that dress gives me butterflies when I think about it. People would reach out to me telling me they lost a family member and they felt that the dress memorialized them or people of color reaching out to express that the dress made them feel heard. People were able to find something positive through this dress. We need things that both liberate us and bring us together, for me that’s through fashion.
You’ve had lots of amazing opportunities such as NYFW, Julia Fox wearing your design, and being on Upcycle Nation. What has been the most memorable?
Other than the reactions from the newspaper dress, the coolest moment was Upcycle Nation. One of the judges is big in the upcycling community, Cho. He was having his debut fashion week collection after the show aired and he reached out to me to assist him. I worked with him on castings and fittings, even making two of the dresses and styling. It was cool making such a genuine connection with a mentor. It was great to have him bring me up with him and it was a full-circle moment. This past fashion week was the most surreal moment I’ve had so far.
Out of all of the materials you’ve used, what is your favorite and what do you hope to experiment with next?
Plastic bags are my favorite for the graphics and how recognizable they are. I’m currently collecting bread bag tabs so that might be next but I’m wanting to get more unconventional.
What impact do you hope to have on the industry?
I want people to be more aware of what they are buying and I want people to look for alternatives before making a fast fashion or luxury purchase. I want people to think harder when they shop and for people to be more thoughtful.
Do you have a sustainability tip for beginners?
I would encourage people to keep their trash for a week and sort it to then look at the recycling rules in their town. Through collecting my own trash I’ve learned a lot about what I’m doing wrong and I think it’s an important experience to learn from.
Anna’s platform is a source of creativity for her viewers and provides tangible ways to find sustainable solutions. Her brand, Instinct Brand brings her upcycling creations to consumers and continues to grow in popularity with a new drop that is releasing soon. While referencing brands that inspire her HODA COVA was a notable mention which recently landed a collaboration with Gucci to upcycle the brand’s belts into purses. Bringing upcycling into the luxury space is a huge milestone that hopefully continues to grow. Young designers like Anna Molinari are using their platforms to create change and inspire their audience to learn more about their social impact.
Keep up with Anna on TikTok at @annamolinstinct and Instagram @annamo.1
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