Upcycling is nothing new. I like to think of it as the underdog to the sustainability movement. Perhaps because it takes precision, passion, and productivity to perfect, it gets overlooked for vintage or pre-loved options. Leen Nizameddin’s stamp on the process, however, feels undeniably fresh.
The young Abu Dhabi-born creative is the founder and creative director of SOUND.ON, a regional streetwear brand that produces locally and sustainably as a means to tackle fashion’s problem with waste. “The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world,” explains Leen. “Upcycling can help reduce textile waste by reusing dead-stock or previously owned fabrics and materials, that would otherwise end up in landfills, to create a new garment.”
Leen has been upcycling since she was a child; often breathing new life into her older sibling’s hand-me-downs, but it wasn’t until last year that she decided to turn her talent and creativity into a business: “after wearing one of my upcycled designs to last year’s Sole DXB, I received a lot of positive feedback and love for my work and decided to continue pushing forward with it.” Just half a year later the local designer caught the attention of Nike – along with another sustainable streetwear designer, Engy Madhy of ONE AND FOUR STUDIO – who called upon her for the launch of new Vapormax 2020 sneaker to create face masks from the sportswear giant’s dead-stock football jerseys.
Sourcing fabrics for her designs in the UAE is no easy feat however, which causes Leen to search from various different locations. Toronto being one of them. Having spent seven years of her life in the Canadian city, she works closely with a thrift store over there that she grew up going to. “I also recently started working with a Dubai-based charity organisation, Thrift for Good,” she states. “It follows a zero-waste policy as they work to re-home second-hand items, and 75% of their revenues from sales are donated to help children around the world through health, education and housing.”
It’s easy to see that to the emerging Dubai-based talent, sustainability is on the forefront of her mind; “it is also is a form of expressionism and individuality, especially in the case of upcycling,” she says, which is why she’s calling to everyone to look at their old clothing as a blank canvas, and create something entirely different and unique.”
Her foray in sustainability also transcends into other areas of her life too. To Leen, the three concepts to a more mindful lifestyle go as follows: shop consciously, de-clutter, and eat locally.
Shop SOUND.ON HERE.[THANK YOU TO EVERYONE THAT HELPED ON THIS SHOOT… I DECIDED TO CALL UPON THE BEAUTIFUL COUPLE FREEK + MALIA AS MODELS AS THEY WERE THE FIRST PEOPLE I HAD THE PLEASURE TO SHOOT IN DUBAI YEARS AGO, AND NOW MY TIME IN THE UAE IS COMING TO AN END, I WANTED TO COMMEMORATE THE OCCASION WITH THEM AGAIN. IN THE DESERT, NATURALLY. FREEK IS AN EXTREMELY TALENTED LOCAL MUSIC ARTIST AND MALIA IS MORE WIDELY KNOWN AS DJ LIUTIK. SHE EVEN CREATED BEACH MIX: CHILL VIBES FOR MY MONOTONES SERIES IN THE PAST. PEACE + LOVE]