Together for tomorrow


Q&A: Cynthia Otiyo-Abila upcyles old jeans into funky, new ones

by | Aug 28, 2020

“Waste isn’t waste until we waste it,” says American rapper Will.I.Am. This sentiment is exactly what has inspired Cynthia Otiyo-Abila’s new side project called ‘TRANSFORMATION DECLOTHED’. The Nigeria-based denim designer makes upcycled jeans for the conscious fashion consumer. The jeans featured here are her first garment in the project refashioned completely from old, torn up jeans sourced from her husband’s closet and from people who drop off their unwanted denim at her studio. Cynthia has deconstructed the existing pieces of jean material and used a suit collar and patch pockets as design elements.

Twyg caught up with Cynthia about her concept.


Where do you source the material for your upcycled jeans?

My first samples were sourced from friends and family. My first upcycled piece was made from my husband’s pre-loved jeans that I didn’t want to discard, so I ripped them apart and used the pieces to make new garments. I have also recently started using my studio as a drop-off centre where people come to trade off their used jeans for minimal cash.

How many pairs of jeans did you use to make one upcycled pair?

I use a minimum of two pairs and maximum of five pairs depending on the style and size of the fit.

What is the process involved in making a pair of upcycled jeans?

Making up cycled garments require a lot of work. First, we separate the collected materials according to fabric strength and usage. Then we rip them all apart and make new patterns for each style. We don’t use existing patterns. Every style depends on the creative mood and each piece is unique.

Where do you normally source your textiles?

I normally source my textiles from local artisans, craftsmen and women all over Nigeria.

Who is your target market?

My target customer is a woman who wants to explore the world beyond her walls but is still true to her roots. She is ethno-centric, values sustainability, culture and history while still looking modern, fashionable and elegant.

How do you incorporate sustainable practices into your work?

We produce most materials locally to promote and preserve centuries-old techniques of hand-made fabrics that have been passed down from generation to generation. We also work with women cooperatives to provide skill and job opportunities. Through flexible work policies, they are able to support their families and live a meaningful lifestyle.

 Are you thinking of expanding this project?

Yes. I plan on making it a huge project because I am very passionate about recycling and sustainability. I will keep working on innovative developments and produce fashion items that centre around recycling.

You can follow Cynthia on Instagram. 

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