Katie Johnston has been caught dumpster-diving on more than one occasion. But when there are 70s-style turquoise blue tiles sitting in a skip bin, she is not going to apologise for rescuing them and giving them a second lease on life.
In fact, rescuing items destined for landfill is both a passion and a business for Johnston, who is the founder and CEO of EcoBling.
The Eumundi resident turns wood offcuts, broken glass, tiles and stainless steel into stunning pieces of jewellery (pictured left on a model), which are capturing international attention and have been showcased in sustainable runway shows around North America.
EcoBling was created three years ago and quickly became a name in the
eco-fashion realm, with sustainability running through every vein of the business.
“The very first piece I made was made from a piece from a fallen down shed in my backyard when I was living in New Farm in Brisbane,” Johnston says.
“From then, I started noticing heaps of construction waste and all of these hardwood offcuts. The more I got into the mindframe of upcycling, the more resources I saw, instead of waste.”
Johnston was invited to showcase her designs at Eco Fashion Week in Seattle in November last year and says while it was an exciting step for the business, it was also one that brought a lot of internal conflict.
“Being part of the fashion industry and having the mindset that I do creates a lot of conflict for me.
“I can see so much damage happening, so much land being needed for growing textiles, materials and raw materials needed for textiles being wasted, as well as deforestation exponentially happening to make way for textile production,” she says.
“I am anti-fast fashion and am very pro-recycling. For my first runway, I dressed my models in recycled bedsheets.”
Johnston says a lot of eco fashion designers are becoming disheartened that no matter how loud they shout or how positive their message is, it’s not “getting through the noise”.
“We have this global mentality and a somewhat animalistic nature that gets us excited when we see something that is cheap, new, and shiny.
“It is a very complex problem and one that I hope more people are waking up to. It requires a very strong person to think that because it’s cheap at $5, it’s usually at the expense of something else, and that is people and the planet.”