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For our Recycled Beauty photo series starring Melissa Mars, we wanted to highlight the importance of recycling. We thought the best way to do this would be to create beautiful clothing for our photo shoot made out of trash. Not knowing where to start, we realized that we needed a professional, so we called on Spanish fashion designer Jhon Monsalve to join the project. We challenged Jhon to create a selection of haute couture garments and accessories made only from discarded, recycled and recyclable materials. The other challenge was to make sure that the clothes fit Melissa well and flattered her body – not an easy task when dealing with unconventional objects. As you can see from the photo series, the end result is spectacularly stunning! We were so impressed with the talented Mr. Monsalve that we decided to interview him to find out more about his life, his background and his inspirations for the amazing “Recycled Beauty” creations. We learned that although he was born in Miami, Florida, Jhon grew up in Colombia and Spain, and studied fashion design at the Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) in Madrid. After graduating he traveled to Bangkok to collaborate with Georgine Ratelband on her new label called Georgine. Here’s more!

Why did you decide to become a fashion designer?

Well that is a difficult question. In the beginning, I wanted to study something related to business or even architecture. As a young boy I was fascinated by buildings. In fact, I was interested in just about every kind of creative pursuit but I didn’t have an idea that I would end up as a fashion designer. Right after I finished high school I went to Milan to visit an old friend who was studying fashion. She was the one who introduced me to the the amazing world of fashion and fashion runways. I love the art behind every collection because it is the real background of fashion – I saw all of the designers as artists. That trip totally changed my point of view about this profession and I decided then that I wanted to be able to create my own pieces. I was also interested in playing with human shapes and creating new volumes as if it were architecture on the human body. After all, the purpose of architecture is to protect human beings from the elements. So does fashion, really, with their seasonal collections and designs that are specific for different locations and weather.

What is your favorite part about being a fashion designer?

Well, fashion design is a whole process and it’s difficult to pick the part I like the best. But I think that the most important and challenging part of the process is when you translate your drawing into a real piece. Working with the fabrics and other textiles, you can come across many difficulties because the materials might be problematic, or perhaps the idea on paper is not that easy to bring into reality. So overcoming those little challenges is the most exciting part for me in the whole design process.

What did you think when Style Quotidien challenged you to create haute couture clothes and accessories out of trash and recycled materials?

When they proposed this project to me I was very excited. But I was also a bit worried as well because it was a big challenge, especially because I didn’t have any previous experience working with these kinds of materials. But the idea of making haute couture out of ” trash” really got me, so i started sketching right away.

Fashion_Designer_Jhon_Monsalve

Spanish fashion designer Jhon Monsalve (photo by Olivier Rieu).

What were your inspirations for the designs you created for the shoot?

Since the project was related to eco-design, the first thing I had to decide was which materials to use. Starting from that point, I wanted every material that I chose to have a different shape. So I focused on the natural shape of each item to see how I could manipulate it to make it look different. For example, I took a flat piece of paper and modified it until it became a voluminous piece and then I attached this little piece to the body to make the appearance totally different. I also studied animals, especially insects, to observe their shapes and the simple lines of their bodies have a natural beauty. From there, I considered the importance of the environment and was very careful to always use materials or tools the modification process that won’t destroy the environment. Regarding the colors of the dresses, I wanted to conserve the original colors and try to play around with them in order do have an elegant result that was organic and realistic.

How did you select the materials you used?

This was one of the main challenges of the process, because before I started to design the garments, I was brain storming about which materials would be the right ones. My focus was on making the garments look high fashion, but in an innovative way because we have already seen  many dresses made of plastic bags, paper, etc. So I thought specifically about which materials are recyclable, and I focused on things we might not think of like all the materials we lose when we redecorate our houses or many other materials that people normally don’t consider to be recyclable but are. Also I thought about taking regular materials such as paper or plastic and treating them before using them, in order to change their appearance and texture.

Were the materials difficult to work with?

At the beginning, yes. Working with these materials was really difficult because all they were all new to me. But after a few days of dealing with them I learned a lot about how to manage them to get the best results. But to be honest, I have to admit that it was very difficult to work with metal.

What was it like working with Melissa Mars?

It was lovely to work with her. She made every things very easy for me with all the fittings we had to do to make sure that all the garments were fit perfectly on her body. It was challenging to make sure the garments fit her perfectly. Her attitude during the editorial was perfect – she was always happy and really laid back.

This was your first fashion editorial. What did you think?

Yes, it was my very first experience in this area. i had never done an editorial before, so this was a learning experience. One of the biggest things I learned was the importance of working together as a team. It was really crucial to have other points of view and difference ideas. I also realized how much work goes into creating an editorial. There is a lot of work behind the nice pictures, including make up, hairstyle, photography, lighting and so on. As a designer, I was used to only working  with the fabrics and not with this part of the final process.

What do you think of eco-fashion?

It’s a natural evolution for the times we are living in really. I think this whole idea of consuming  needs to change. Fashion is a living art that reinvents itself every single season so why not refocus this art with a new attitude on consumption? There are so many new eco-materials and eco-friendly productions processes, especially during this era of corporate responsibility. I think fashion is one of the most influential industries in the world, and with so many designers and companies we could surely change the industry by buying eco-designs from responsible manufacturers.

What are your plans for the future?

For now, I plan to stay a long season in Paris in order to acquire more experience and learn more about the famous french style. I’m also working on my first Fall/Winter collection and staying open to other interesting opportunities.