Disused electrical wires woven into a bustier dress and windscreen wipers forming a velvet fishtail gown. Fashion designer Jeremy Scott’s latest project sees him transform scrap auto parts into striking couture — or “car-ture,” as he dubbed it.
Unveiled Wednesday in Seoul, South Korea, the capsule collection arose from a collaboration with carmaker Hyundai, which tasked Scott with upcycling discarded seat belts, taillights and even hubcaps from its production line.
The handmade garments go on show less than two days after luxury label Moschino stunned the fashion world by announcing that the American designer is departing as its creative director after almost a decade at the helm. A renowned fashion figure in his own right, Scott has a reputation for playful, irreverent designs — some of which have incorporated unusual materials, like inflatable pool toys.
Speaking to CNN from Seoul via video, the 47-year-old said he wanted to “rearticulate” the vehicle scraps into “something that would be sculptural, inspiring and striking.” Using his windscreen-wiper evening gown as an example, he added that the collection combined elegance with “something very urban.”
“So it’s very French couture in that way, but very cyberpunk in another,” he said.
The project marks the fourth installment of Hyundai’s annual “Re: Style” initiative, which sees the South Korean carmaker asking notable fashion designers to upcycle scrap car parts into fashion items. While previous years have seen some participants sell their garments in limited-edition runs, Scott’s creations are one-offs that will be exhibited in Seoul for the next two and a half weeks.
“Some of them probably will be very, very difficult to wear on any occasion, because they aren’t very traditional in that way,” he admitted. “So they’re more of an inspiration.”
Like much else in his career, Missouri-born Scott traces the project’s design inspiration back to his grandmother, who not only taught him how to sew but also “took everything that we used and rearticulated it into something else.” He recalled, for instance, how she would reuse plastic bread bags by weaving them into rugs, braiding them into jump ropes or crocheting them into toilet paper cozies. “I think that today we would call her an artist,” he said.
“I grew up seeing (upcycling), and it was so natural and so effortless. So I don’t even think about it as a brain function — it’s just a natural view of the world.”
This is Scott’s second collaboration with Hyundai, which claims it will be carbon-neutral by 2040. Last year, during the FIFA World Cup, the designer used polyester made from PET bottles to produce a line of soccer jerseys for the carmaker.
The company’s senior vice president Sungwon Jee said in a statement that Scott’s couture collection “demonstrates that much of what we throw away can be repurposed and become something beautiful through such vision and talent.”
The striking new gowns are a reminder of why Scott is considered among the fashion industry’s most inventive figures.
While he runs his own eponymous label, he has not presented new collections independently since 2019. Speaking with CNN shortly after his departure from Moschino was announced, Scott said he had been “flattered and touched” by the response to Monday’s news.
“I’ve never felt so loved in my life,” the designer. “It’s been very, very beautiful having so much excitement and enthusiasm about the past 10 years at Moschino, and so much enthusiasm about my future steps.”
What those next steps may entail remains a matter of speculation. Scott remained tight-lipped about his future, other than to declare that he is “just very excited.” But regardless of whether he focuses on expanding his namesake label or making further moves into filmmaking, Scott said that sustainability will play an important role in any future endeavor.
“It’s always going to be part of our work as contemporary creatives today,” he said. “It just has to be.”