Tracy Reese Creates Collection Using Upcycled Plastic Bottles

Courtesy of Queens Museum

Courtesy of Queens Museum

Flint, Michigan has gone almost four years without clean water and there is no end in sight. The crisis has resulted in residents using plastic water bottles for everything including drinking water, cleaning, bathing and more, leaving a trail of plastic bottles across the city. In response to this environmental and humanitarian disaster, experiential artist Mel Chin conceived “Flint Fit”: a project in partnership with fashion designer and Michigan native Tracy Reese that utilizes the plastic waste in Flint to create hope and opportunity through fashion.

The debut “Flint Fit” collection, now showing at Queens Museum through August 12, 2018, is a result of Flint residents, advocates and the community collecting over 90,000 plastic bottles from Flint, MI and transforming them into recycled REPREVE yarn in Greensboro, NC. The recycled thread was woven and knitted into fabric and returned to Flint to be sewn and constructed locally at The St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center. The Center, chosen because of its vital role in the rejuvenation of local jobs within the community, provides on-the-ground job training while also providing access to a food pantry and literacy center.

As a nod to the ongoing water crisis, the collection features raw-edged raincoats and swimwear.

Courtesy of Queens Museum

Courtesy of Queens Museum

“We were known for the automobile; we’re known for education; we’re known for healthcare; now we’re going to be known for raincoats,” said a Flint resident in the short video created by the Queens Museum, available here.

“We were known for the automobile; we’re known for education; we’re known for healthcare; now we’re going to be known for raincoats"

“Reese was inspired by the power and necessity of water, the resiliency of the Flint community, and the manufacturing history of Flint, especially the look of the 1940s, when Flint was a booming production center,” Reese tells CFDA, who obtained an early look at the pieces.

The collection is available for purchase but instead aims to bring awareness to the ongoing crisis and open the door for future manufacturing opportunities in Flint. “Flint Fit” is presented as part of the more extensive exhibition highlighting Chin’s work, Mel Chin: All Over the Place, organized by Queens Museum and No Longer Empty.