Thinking sustainable with Nicole McLaughlin
She is one of the aspiring designers of our time. With her sustainable artworks Nicole McLaughlin is one of a kind when it comes to upcycling. Corporations with Puma and Crocs made her image and the impact on sustainability in fashion grow. There’s no one else who’s more capable of turning classic Crocs into survival pieces than she does. Read more about Nicole McLaughlin’s career path and her way of giving old shoes a second chance in our interview.
You are a very thoughtful and sustainable person. Was there a particular moment in your career (or before) that made you see things differently and work more sustainable?
I think we’ve all experienced a “right under our nose” moment when it comes to waste, but it takes a different perspective to want to do something about it.
I’ve always been mindful of waste and sustainability because of my relationship with the outdoors. However, it wasn’t until I worked in the sportswear industry that I became aware of the sheer volume of “throw-away” production. I had been buying vintage and second hand for several years, but that experience changed my consumption approach.
My financial situation predominantly determined my use of materials in my work; I was broke. But having limitations allowed me to think about what I wanted to make and how to approach it. I had to be thoughtful and strategic. By considering waste, it gave me the ability to see how to maximize the things I could make. It may sound cliche, but it’s not about what you have, but seeing what you can make with what’s available.
What was the reason that made you develop your hobby to your profession?
Hobbies are hobbies for a reason. You enjoy doing them, but sometimes, that’s where it ends. It’s a temporary mood shifter. But when my hobby became more fulfilling than my actual job, I knew I needed to change.
Growth doesn’t happen if you don’t commit to making and taking opportunities for yourself to create change. It was a big decision with no clear indication for success, but I’m grateful I trusted myself enough to take that chance.
Is there a mission you want to accomplish with your work?
To change people’s perceptions of waste, which I hope will lead to new opportunities around sustainability. The potential is there; it’s just unexplored.
As an upcycling artist you transform old pieces into something new. You use this knowledge in consulting companies on how to implement sustainability, can you tell us a bit more about this kind of collaboration?
Collaboration is a conversation. Often, brands say they want to collaborate, but in reality, it’s a very one-sided conversation where they treat sustainability as a marketing gimmick. These are not the conversations I want to have. So a lot of time is spent educating them on what I do before deciding to work together.
When it comes to sustainability, brands need to build relationships with designers and the community with a bit more trust. If brands don’t, I’m not sure if what they’re trying to achieve is genuine, if they don’t bother listening to what they have to say. We need positive intent – energy, time and resources if we want to succeed in creating change.
Read the full interview in our upcoming print magazine – The Reconnect Issue – to find out more about Nicole’s creative process, how her work has been impacted by the pandemic, about her recent collaborations with global players, like Crocs, and about her favorite snack.
Along with other exclusive interviews with legends in the industry like gallery owner Johann König, street photographer Martha Cooper and illustrator Christoph Niemann, the fourth Forward Magazine print issue will come out in the beginning of September and will be available for pre-order in our shop soon.