Panama, Casco Viejo, Santa Ana, La Manzana
Fashion influences every aspect of our lives. Many are obvious, others you wouldn´t think about. Just the making of each piece impacts the whole world. Consider one of Panama´s most used item: the jeans.
The fibers used to make the fabric itself usually are from farms that pay little attention to the environment. People working there might not have basic access to health services, or perhaps a formal labor situation. The process of coloring them (dye) many times releases chemicals in rivers and oceans, causing pollution and negatively affecting ocean life.
All of this without even talking about the social, economic and environmental issues of actually making the specific jean piece (that´s another story!) or how it is finally disposed, whether it even gets to a managed (or not) garbage dump (in the best of cases).
So, as consumers… what can we do?
That´s why I love today´s interview!
In September, La Manzana at La Quince in Santa Ana inaugurates with Fashion Week Panama. And within its iconic runways, it is now introducing one with upcycled fashion. To tell us more about this project, we have interviewed Katherine McKenzie and Andrea Rebolledo, founders of FREEFORM in Panama.
- Tell us, how did everything start? When did you get interested in fashion and upcycled fashion?
KATHERINE: since I was a Little girl I loved the art direction of magazines and films. I thought it was amazing how an idea got conceptualized and executed, how clothing was mixed to create a utopic world. Growing up I realized that fashion tells the story of our society and moment we live in. My curiosity for fashion took me to study fashion marketing at the Instituto Marangoni in London and then I decided to move to their headquarters in Paris where I met Andrea Rebolledo. During this time in London (2014-2016) I connected with the thought of different designers like Vivian Westwood, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto who used a de constructed style with second hand materials like vintage clothing. Plus at the time there was a lot of debate in the fashion industry about fast fashion and environmental repercusions. The younth in London was wearing vintage clothing as a way to balance and be aware of their purchasing decisions. This took me to try vintage clothing and from that moment to use it widely.
Andrea: For me fashion has always been closely related to growing up and the way I´ve evolved. I loved to create pieces using my mother´s and my brother´s clothes. In my childhood I saw fashion as something luxurious, and before going to university I would limit myself to known brands. Today I see fashion as a therapy to create and connect with myself, express myself and grow. When I started my first year of fashion university in Paris, I met very different people and styles. I remember that I got invited to a gigantic vintage clothing fair during my third week there. From that moment I loved it, because they were unique and it was like treasure hunting. After that experience I learned about the impact fashion has in the environment, and how some brands use it as a way to greenwash.
Coming back to Panama, I did an internship in a fast fashion brand store and decided to cut it short. It was then when I re connected with Katherine. Together we decided to create a business that would convey the freedom of sustainable life. We began with second hand clothing, then to vintage. Thanks to this initiative we´ve met tons of interesting and creative people, sustainable brands that inspire us. Personally I´ve felt we´ve also grown a lot and found new ways to express and connect with ourselves.
We wanted to create pieces that would embody FreeForm and that´s why we started with circular design based on upcycling. This really allows us to flow and give new life to many pieces and objects, creating our own new form.
- How is Free Form born?
It started with a second hand clothing store in 2019 but it had another name. Andrea and I always wanted to create an open stape on which we could create freely and be aware, we love de constructing pieces and creating new styles for different people. A space to collaborate with creators from different backgrounds. In 2020 we decided to give a twist to our store and make it into FREEFORM Atelier with upcycling, which is our small lab to experiment. We love how this technique allows for different styles on different people, while helping the market to be conscious of their purchase. This trend needs to grow in Panama.
- My understanding is that you´ll have a runway in Fashion Week , and that on top of showcasing the versatility of upcycling clothing, you are involving tailoresses from Santa Ana. Tell us a bit about it, who is involved and how can we support?
When Fashion Week´s team proposed the idea of making these upcycling workshops with tailoresses of Santa Ana, we got excited and fell in love with the project. We´ve been teaching about fashion principles, conceptualizing, entrepreneurship and development. A collection of 15 looks from which 5 looks will be executed by tailoresses under our creative direction.
Our idea was to teach an alternative and sustainable visión of Fashion, and to create a Fashion show that “isn´t”, we´ll be creating a performance of sorts in parallel to the runway with some models and artist from Santa Ana and city surroundings.
For the Fashion Show we´ll re create a playground with different characters interacting. We also introduced bamboo structures by our friend and architect Maria Laura Torrijos ( @lamorenitafarm) who has introduced us to non-pollutant alternative materials. We can´t wait for you all to see the collection and the performance!
- For everyone who would like to go to the runway, when is it? Or to contact you and follow your work, where / how?
You can Support us in different ways
- Come to the runway show! September 26th at 4 p.m.
We´ll also have a small after party/showroom at Mahalo (Ave B and 12th inside the Hotel Las Clemetinas) from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Follow us in Instagram @freeform.cltr or visit our website www.freeformcltr.com
- Volunteer! We´ll need volunteers to assist us the day of the show. If you know of anyone, contact us writing either directly to the Instagram or to: [email protected]
In general, this i sour email for any questions: [email protected]