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Learn How to Turn an Old Pair of Jeans Into a Fresh Club-Ready Look

Sustainability gets a sleek and stylish makeover with upcycling guru Melisa Minca.

Words by Caroline Whiteley
Words by Melisa Minca
Published on August 11, 2020 23:45 Berlin Time

As much as we love fashion, we all know the industry behind it creates waste and exploits human labor. According to a report from Oxfam, fast fashion produces more carbon emissions per minute than driving a car around the world six times. So what can we do to stop the vicious cycle of fast fashion?

Enter Melisa Minca, the eco-friendly fashion designer who has dressed a number of club culture personalities including techno powerhouse Ellen Allien and the ever-irreverent DJ Partiboi69. Minca’s one-of-a-kind garments and stand-out looks are created entirely by exclusively using secondhand materials and vintage cast-offs. Her bold design approach knows no boundaries–from turning an old pair of jeans into a 90s-inspired halter top, as she does here, or transmogrifying t-shirt scraps into swishing pleat dresses. To Minca, all garments are fair game.

The fashion industry is currently on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s Minca’s hope that she can inspire readers to continue with eco-conscious measures even when life returns to normal. After all, it’s one of the easiest, most stylish ways to reduce one’s carbon footprint. Learn how to upcycle a single pair of denim jeans, two ways—with a healthy dose of Minca’s own tongue-in-cheek commentary—below.

First look: Jeans halter top

In this tutorial I will show you how to make a halter top out of your old jeans. I’ll be using one of many pairs of jeans a friend donated to me, because the shop they work at would otherwise send them off to be burned, together with all the other unsold or ‘faulty’ stock to save some money. Neat, huh? No, it’s diabolical. Don’t shop fast fashion.

For this project you will need: a pair of stretchy jeans (low rise works best), seam ripper, pair of scissors, and heat-erasing marker or fabric chalk.

Now you’re able to put the jeans on yourself upside down (the waistband hitting above your waist and the trousers going upwards). Mark on one side, how you want the top to fit. Don’t forget to mark the two straps long enough, so you’re able to tie them behind your neck.

Once you’ve marked one side, cut. For the top to be symmetrical, place the cut side on top of the uncut, mark again and cut again. Clean the opened seam of all leftover thread.

You’re done! Add some sparkles for the ultimate Y2K party vibe.

Hot tip: you can use your partner or a friend’s old jeans to make this top and you can have their crotch close to your heart in a time of need. For a fully-fledged zero-waste moment, you can make an asymmetrical lace up skirt–I will show you on my own Instagram soon.

Second look: Pocket Bralet

You need: a pair of jeans, 4x bra straps, seam ripper, needle and thread.

Remove the back pockets with the seam ripper.

Create a dart on the pocket to make space for your boob. Try it in front of the mirror and pin. Then pin the other one the same way. Make sure they are symmetrical.

Sew along the line you pinned and iron in place.

You should have 4 bra straps. Cut one up to create 4 smaller bits which will serve as loops for the hooks on the remaining bra straps. Also cut your bridge strap, which will go between the two cups. I’m making my own straps, because their color better matches the denim I’m working with.

Sew the bridge strap between the cups. Sew the loops in place. Hook 2 bra straps into one another and hook the other ends in the top loops, that’s your neck strap. The third strap goes around the back, hook it into the side loops.

The last touch: iron the outward side of the pocket bra inwards to create a triangle. You can tuck it under the dart.

HOT TIP: With the pocket-less jeans you can attempt a matching peeking thong element, get creative!

Now that we’ve laid out how to create a unique club-ready and environmentally friendly garment, it’s time for the Electronic Beats community to step in. In the video linked below, climate activist Eirini Vougiouka adapts the tutorial at home. Share your self-made garments with the hashtag #whatwedonext.

Melisa Minca is a Berlin-based designer making unique clothing from second hand textiles and scrap material. Find her on Instagram.