Fashion student’s upcycling is En Pointe

After learning that The Australian Ballet goes through 7,500 ballet shoes each year, Melbourne-based fashion student Adelie Gahan-Hannibal, who loves an upcycling project, was inspired to write to them and request any surplus shoes.

“A month after reaching out, The Australian Ballet sent me an email offering 50 pairs,” said Adelie.

On receiving the box of ballet shoes, Adelie said they didn’t smell bad at all, given the workout the ballerinas would have put them through.

“I’m now restructuring the ballet shoes and creating other garments from them, like jewellery, bags and jacket pockets,” explained the 29-year-old.

Adelie, who is in the final weeks of her Diploma of Fashion Design and Merchandising at Kangan Institute, said her passion for upcycling stems from her studies.

“At Kangan Institute we’re taught about fast fashion and its effects on our planet, which has motivated me to do my bit for the environment and use my skills to reconstruct discarded clothes and footwear and create new outfits and accessories,” said Adelie.

The ballet shoes that Adelie received from The Australian Ballet would cost around $6000 to purchase brand new.

“I am really looking forward to progressing this project a lot further once I’ve completed my Diploma, which is not far off,” she said.

Adelie is not rushing this project, which she’s fondly named ‘En Pointe’ a French term that describes a ballet dancer gracefully moving on the tips of their toes.

“Before dismantling any of the shoes, I laid them all out on the floor of my apartment and photographed each pair to have a record of them, it’s part of my process because I would like my creative ideas to form over time,” said Adelie. 

“I’ve now taken quite a few pairs apart, measured them, taken patterns of all the pieces, and I’m exploring the idea of X-raying some of them, before they’re all dismantled.

“Currently I’m experimenting with the leather soles, seeing what comes out when I turn it into strips of leather and sew them back up again. Eventually, after some more experimentation, I think it would make a great handbag,” she continued.

Showcasing her designs in parade is not something Adelie has done yet, but this November she is preparing some outfits for Kangan Institute’s Melbourne Fashion Week virtual runway show called PPE – Phoenix, Paradigm, Evolution.

“I’m making some fun, upcycled garments out of some old boat sails,” Adelie revealed.

“One of the sails is called a spinnaker, this particular sail is designed to fly over the front of the yacht and pick up the wind for speed, and they are huge in size and was deemed unusable because it ripped, or what sailors call a ‘blow out.’

“The other sails I’ve managed to salvage for my PPE outfits are old dinghy sails. I obtained all of these sails from the Sail Exchange in Sydney. They have a donation pile they offer for the cost of freight,” continued Adelie.

In her spare time, Adelie volunteers at SisterWorks in Richmond, a not-for-profit that helps women migrants, asylum seekers and refugees become financially independent and happily settled in Australia.

“I volunteer as an engagement co-ordinator at SisterWorks, which means I help organise the online beginner sewing class,” revealed the Kangan Institute student.

“My main responsibility is to is support the sewing teacher. I assist with answering questions that participants may have around the course work or the sewing machines. Plus, I check-in with the participants to ensure everyone is ok and engaged,” Adelie concluded.

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