I want to...

Sustainable Sunday Couture: Domestic Workers Upcycling Fashion

The exhibition

This exhibition showcases costumes made of everyday upcycled materials, designed and created by Ms Elpie A. Malicsi. As a Filipino domestic helper in Hong Kong, Elpie’s costumes speak to the need for a more inclusive dialogue about sustainability, one that addresses the links between sustainability and labour rights, decent work and domestic workers’ creative contributions to Hong Kong culture.

This project is supported by the HKU Knowledge Exchange Fund granted by the University Grants Committee.

Sustainable Sunday Couture Poster

The costumes

“My Sweet Wrap Creation” – Peacock Gown (2013)

Elpie won the Best Designer Award for this costume, at a 2013 competition hosted by Classic Herb International for costumes made of waste materials derived from their products. The particular coffee sachets used are from a drink that is very popular among the Filipino community as a claimed cancer preventative. This costume took 3 weeks to create.

Materials: 936 coffee sachets, zipper, shoe lace, thread.

 

Mermaid Gown (2014)

This award-winning gown was designed for competition in 2014. The particular coffee sachets used are from a drink that is very popular among the Filipino community as a claimed cancer preventative. This costume took 3 weeks to create.

Materials: 310 coffee sachets, 36 chocolate wrappers, metal wire from a clothes hanging rack, safety pins.

 

Filipiniana Dress (2017)

This dress was created for a Domestic Workers Empowerment Project program showcasing Elpie’s sustainable designs. The materials for this costume was collected on Sundays. Hawkers who sell items such as clothes and bags to Filipino crowds in Central on Sundays use these sacks to carry their sellable items and discard it nearby. This costume took 2 days to create.

Materials: plastic sack (black), plastic sack (beige), brooch.

 

“Recycle to Fabulous” – Soda Can Tab Dress (2014)
This gown was designed for a friend’s friend who requested Elpie’s design for a recycle/eco costume competition. She used the soda tabs to create a shiny effect. The soil bags were collected from a designated waste disposal area near Elpie’s residential area. The soda can tabs were collected with the help of her friends. This costume took 2 days to create.

Materials: soda can tabs, soil bags.

 

Blue Dress (2016)

This gown was designed for a sustainability-themed fashion show organized by the Domestic Workers Empowerment Project. The soil bags were collected from a designated waste disposal area near Elpie’s residential area. This costume took 2 days to create.

Materials: 4 plastic soil bags, shoelace, 1-2 white plastic bags.

 

White Wedding Gown (2016)

This gown was made upon request by a participant of an eco-fashion show competition in Fulum Palace in North Point. She later used the gown for a fashion show organized by the Domestic Worker Empowerment Project (DWEP). This costume took 4 days to create.

Materials: 8 white rubbish bags, string.

 

Coffee Sachet Dress (2014)

This gown is another version of “My Sweet Wrap Creation”. Elpie designed this dress for a competition hosted by Classic Herb International in Macao where participants from their branches all around the world competed. Elpie did not win any awards but she was proud of her accomplishment for making it as far as Macao and receiving many complements from the judges. This costume took 1 week to create.

Materials: coffee sachets, juice packs.

 

Red & White Beach Dress (2017)

This was designed for a show organized by the Domestic Worker Empowerment Project on Shek O beach. Elpie used braiding and weaving to capture the beach vibe. The lower fringe can be detached to create a short dress, which is more suitable for a beach. This costume took 1 week to create.

Materials: red bags used in stores selling dry goods in Sheung Wan, white plastic rubbish bags.

 

Red Dress with Scarf (2016)

This gown was created for a show organized by the Domestic Workers Empowerment Project. The plastic bags used for this costume are often used for shipping in the Philippines. The red plastic bags for this costume were sourced in the Philippines. This costume took 1 week to create.

Materials: 5 red plastic bags from the Philippines, white rubbish plastic bags.

 

Red Dress with Bubble Wrap (2017)

This is one of Elpie’s latest creations and it has not been borrowed or used for any occasion yet. She created it since requests for her gowns have increased. The red plastic bags from a superstore in the Philippines and the bubble wrap is from a set of speakers purchased by her employers. This costume took 3 days to create.

Materials: 4 red plastic bags from the Philippines, white plastic bags, bubble wrap, shoelace.

 

Hearts Filipiniana Dress (2018)

Elpie received the material, the red plastic sacks with hearts from a friend whom she met during one of the workshops of “Visualizing the Voices of Migrant Women Worker”. She kept it until very recently and turned it into a Filipiniana considering its suitability for Valentine’s day themed events. She created the gown at the University of Hong Kong, within two hours for a video shoot to show her working process.

Materials: 2 red heart sacks, rice sack, lids from milk and juice cartons.

 

Hawaii-inspired costume (2012)

The costume was created for Hawaiian Summer Splash Party, costume competition, hosted by Classic Herb International, Elpie’s networking company. She won the best in ‘Hawaiian-inspired Attire’ award. She used just plastic strings to create the entire costume including the pom poms by weaving and teasing. The costume took her a week to complete.

Materials: plastic strings

 

Black rubbish bag dress (2018)

The gown was made with the help of her student helper, Diana. To make this costume, she used new weaving and smocking techniques that she learnt in Egypt while working for another employer. It took her a week to make the gown.

Materials: 5 black plastic bags, lids from milk and juice cartons, white plastic string, and a metal wire from a laundry bag.

 

Straw Dress (2018)

This is one of the costumes Elpie made specifically for the exhibition. The gown was created using straws mostly collected from canteens at the University of Hong Kong. This was one of the most challenging and difficult costume for Elpie because she never used drinking plastic straws before to make costumes. Making this gown, she realized the difficulty of stitching the straws together and getting them to bend at right areas. At the same time, she is excited to experiment with plastic straws in her future creations.

Materials: approximately 500 straws collected from HKU in 4 days, plastic bags, and rice sacks.

 

Pink Plastic Dress

This dress is Elpie’s latest creation made specially for this exhibition. With her tight schedule, she completed the gown right before the opening of the exhibition. She incorporated weaving and braiding techniques which can be quite time consuming but it took her just 2 days to complete the dress.The pink plastic material for the dress was sent to her by her relatives from Philippines, which is commonly used in supermarkets.

Materials: pink plastic and white plastic bags.

The context

The videos

Sustainability with Sustainable Labour (6:05) by the HKU Sustainability Office
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qt9Yisktkk4&feature=youtu.be

Trash Turned Treasure: The Creative Process (3:49) by Merina Sunuwar and Visualizing the Voices of Migrant Women Workers project participants
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjbbudspOuM&feature=youtu.be

My Journey as a Designer by The Wandering Voice (3:45)

From Recycle To Fabulous by Elpie Malicsi for the Visualizing the Voices of Migrant Women Workers project (1:00)
https://youtu.be/kc4vaqSWHgQ

Nature and Environmental Sustainability: Help Save Mother Earth for the Next Generation by the Domestic Workers Empowerment Project, Batch 3
Group 1 (2:01)

Group 2 (2:04)

Group 3 (2:03)

Group 4 (2:03)

Group 5 (2:03)

Mobile Catwalk

On Sunday, February 25, our team organized a ‘mobile catwalk‘. Under the leadership of Bryan Decepeda, a domestic helper, stylist and Sunday pageant organizer, six models paraded down Chater Road, before taking the Star Ferry to the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, then took the MTR to Paterson St and Times Square Plaza in Causeway Bay.

The six models included two students from HKU and CUHK, two domestic helpers with extensive pageant experience, and two domestic helpers from the Domestic Workers Empowerment Project (HKU). They were joined by participants of Lensational Academy, a social enterprise that provides photography classes and workshops for domestic helpers. Members of the Sustainable Sunday Couture project team, Domestic Workers Empowerment Project (DWEP, HKU) and a group of undergraduate students from CCGL9015 Globalization and Migration provided back up support and logistical assistance.

Thank you to everyone who made this happen!

Designer:
Elpie Malicsi

Models:
Angelica Louise Bedana (HKU), Jane Grace Ocera, Liezl Muega, Lanie Rosario, Zyreen Sevilla, Sze Yan Leung (CUHK)

Stylists:
Bryan Decepeda, Cathy Pastrana

Photographers:
Geoffrey D. Cabato, Joan Pabona, Kervy Laroda, and the Lensational photographers

Logistical support:
Candice Chu, Clara Yuet Ming Au, Danise Au, Isabelle Kwan Ching, Dr. Ju-chen Chen, Dr. Julie Ham, Merina Sunuwar, Nicholas Li, Odelia Hui Ching Cheung, Rachel Luk, Shem Redie, and members of the Domestic Workers Empowerment Project

Acknowledgements

Thank you:

  • To our community partners and contributors: Enrich; Green Earth; Lensational; Open Door; Para Site; Philippine Consulate General; Voices of Women Media; Visualizing the Voices of Migrant Women Workers (VVMWW) alumni-Joan Pabona, Lucy Gumiran, Daisy A. Valenzuela, Oliva L. Quizana, Tetchie Blanco, Liezl Muega, Maritess Abana, Susan R. Loria & Gegerma Montero
  • To our student volunteers: Danise Au; Candice Chu; Diana Zhou; Victor Lee
  • To our mobile catwalk queens, artists, photographers and student helpers: Angelica Louise Bedana, Bryan Decepeda, Cathy Pastrana, Clara Yuet Ming Au, Isabelle Kwan Ching, Joan Pabona, Justine, Karla, Kervy, Kris, Lanie Rosario, Nicholas Li, Odelia Hui Ching Cheung, Raffy, Shem Redie, Sze Yan Leung and the Lensational photographers
  • To our HKU partners and contributors: Digital Literacy Laboratory; Domestic Workers Empowerment Project (DWEP); Hong Kong Documentary Initiative; Sustainability Office; The University of Hong Kong Libraries; The Wandering Voice
  • For the financial support from the HKU Knowledge Exchange Fund granted by the University Grants Committee
  • From the project team: Ms Elpie Malicsi, Dr. Julie Ham, Merina Sunuwar, Dr. Ju-chen Chen, Dr. Michael Manio, Jessie Yang, and Dr. Tommy Tse.

For more information, please contact Dr. Julie Ham at jham@hku.hk or Ms Merina Sunuwar at mersu@hku.hk, or visit fb.me/SustainableSundayCouture