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Philippine Designer Makes Women’s Clothes Out of Waste

Leonora Buenviaje has been making women’s clothes out of waste materials, usually dresses. She says wearing clothes made from waste materials can be both economical and look good.

Buenviaje is 51-years-old and from Cainta in the Philippines, about 15 kilometers east of the capital Manilla.

To make her dresses, she uses a foot-operated sewing machine to join together the waste materials. These include recycled newspapers, plastic wrapping and rice sacks.

Recycling is when something new is made from something that has been used before.

The process Buenviaje uses to join the materials together is called sewing. Sewing combines two pieces of cloth or is used to repair cloth. She creates new and beautiful clothes women can wear. They are sometimes completed with a piece called a headdress that goes on top of the head.

“The bubble wraps from delivery packages are nice looking and make for a good design, especially the black and white wraps,” she said. Bubble wrap is a plastic product that is used to protect goods that are being delivered. She said white bubble wraps were good for making wedding dresses.

The dresses sell for between $30 to $50. They are used for everything from coming-of-age parties for a woman’s 18th birthday, called debuts, to weddings.

In Asia, there is plenty of waste material for Buenviaje to work with: about 80 percent of the world ocean plastic is estimated to come from Asian rivers. A 2021 report by Oxford University’s online publication, Our World in Data, found that the Philippines is responsible for one third of Asia’s ocean plastic pollution.

“It’s important to recycle or utilize used materials so we can help our earth,” said Lalaine Alcalde, who buys clothes from Buenviaje.

Leonora Buenviaje sews a dress out of used sacks of rice at her shop in Cainta in the Philippines on March 3, 2022. (REUTERS/Lisa Marie David)

Leonora Buenviaje sews a dress out of used sacks of rice at her shop in Cainta in the Philippines on March 3, 2022. (REUTERS/Lisa Marie David)

Buenviaje said the recycled materials used for each dress depend on what her buyers are looking for.

She said her dresses are used in beauty competitions and are popular with young girls.

“I get delighted whenever they win, the designs are simple but they still win,” she said.

Buenviaje hopes in-person clothing shows called fashion shows and competitions that were stopped during the pandemic will begin again soon.

She also aims to organize fashion shows herself to show and help others find ideas to create clothing out of recycled materials.

I’m Gregory Stachel.

Adrian Portugal reported this story for Reuters. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.

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Words in This Story

dress – n. a piece of clothing for a woman or a girl that has a top part that covers the upper body and a skirt that hangs down to cover the legs

delivery – n. the act of taking something to a person or place

package – n. a box or large envelope that is sent or delivered usually through the mail or by another delivery service

delighted – adj. made very happy: full of great pleasure or satisfaction

utilize – v. to use (something) for a particular purpose

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