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Q&A: Rebirth SA prioritises sustainable fashion in a post pandemic world

by | Nov 13, 2020

Recycling and upcycling denim from “deadstock” is on trend. We usually don’t promote trends because they encourage wasteful consumerism. But we remain dedicated fans of upcycling old and reusable garments.

Producing virgin denim is a hot topic in the sustainability conversation. According to a study by Levi Strauss & Co, one pair of Levi jeans requires a staggering 3 781 litres of water and with over two billion pairs of jeans produced worldwide each year (according to Good on You), producing denim is an incredibly ‘thirsty’ process. Toxic chemical dyes and pesticides are also a concern in the denim process, polluting waterways and rendering them hazardous.

Over the years, we’ve featured recycled and upcycled denim projects and brands, including Cynthia Otiyo-Abila, Anele Cephus Nono of Jenius Platform and Amanda Laird Cherry.

Today we introduce you to 25-year-old Jesmine Davids. The University of Johannesburg fashion design graduate founded streetwear brand, Rebirth SA, during her second-last year of studies to make money to help her parents and complete assignments which required expensive fabric.

Jesmine’s creative mission is to reform virgin denim and educate others about this fabric and the consequences of buying new vs buying reused. “We know that denim has a large environmental footprint. By restructuring our research and design purpose we found ways to limit the environmental footprint of denim, by using what we already have, disassembling and recreating quality garments,” she says. Twyg caught up with the young designer.

Describe Rebirth SA?

Rebirth is a unisex, season-less brand that basically fits everyone. We try to stay oversized but we custom-make some garments. Since Rebirth is a streetwear and sustainable brand we do not encourage bleached garments. We are currently welcome natural food and fruit dyes, and use graphic artists to hand-paint garments.

We pay respect and tribute to our environment by not manufacturing in bulk or overworking workers. We also advocate cruelty-free products so as not to harm to the environment and animals during our process. No chemicals were used to make or finish off these items. We reused trims from older clothing.

Why did you start Rebirth?

It is a streetwear brand because even though we all grew up with different beliefs, cultures, religions and rules, when we are truly alone we find ourselves and our true self on the street. I’m inspired by people with a passion for art and expression, and by change and newness without losing oneself. Rebirth SA means being both original and yourself. Rebirth means inviting newness.

What are your clothes made from?

Mostly denim and waste fabrics. Some are old garments that have been revamped. We have been collecting leather offcuts for our leather range. We are also moving towards using natural dyes from fruit and vegetables like this range dyed with beetroot.

From where do you source your materials?

Rebirth sources high quality, used clothing from our donation bags which come from customers and from thrift stores to recreate new, quality items from older, worn clothing. We also source hidden gems in our wardrobes and storerooms. Revisiting old clothing that no longer fits and that you no longer wear… I take these garments and make them new. Right now, we are sourcing denims locally. Working at a slow fashion pace, we consider our fabrics, trims, services and manufacturing carefully so that they do not harm the environment. We are also collaborating and working with new artists who manufacture products by hand for extra quality to limit electricity costs.

Fashion pet peeves?

  • Bleached clothing;
  • Washing clothes after one wash even though it’s not that dirty;
  • Scratchy fabric;
  • Fabric with glitter;
  • Throw-away culture. Donate or upcycle your clothes!

Top three local sustainable designers you’re watching right now?

Three tips for conscious wardrobe and lifestyle?

Study your passion, be innovative and overcome any near or far challenges. Support local services and businesses and focus on natural products. Invest in quality and eco-friendly products to produce quality products.

Upcoming plans?

I am busy with a few collaborative projects including:

  • Collaborating with sustainable local businesses such as @russtiqgiftscrafts who specialise in natural crochet yarn to create accessories for hair and bags.
  • Collaborating with social media influencers and content creators to spread the word about sustainable fashion with our streetwear brand.
  • In the near future the brand plans on teaming up with leading sustainable denim manufactures that offer denim that is better for the environment.
  • Creating a patched leather bag accessory range from an upholstery company VERSATILE LIBERATIONS. The company is donating all offcuts so they’re following a zero-waste policy.
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