Earth Month 2024: Upcycling Design Contest  


This past April, A&F Co.’s Sustainability Team celebrated Earth Month with an Upcycling Design Contest for associates at the Global Home Office (GHO). An enthusiastic group of participants were up to the challenge of designing new outfits—both wearable and fashionable—using discarded denim scraps from recycling bins found around the GHO campus. (Through our partnership with Cotton Inc.’s Blue Jeans Go Green denim recycling program, these denim scraps are typically collected and recycled into insulation.) 

Nisha Mani, assistant technical designer on the A&F Women’s Team, was one of the organizers behind the contest.  

“As a recent grad, I was eager to find ways to continue the sustainable fashion work I’d been doing in college,” Mani said. “I first met the [A&F Co.] Sustainability Team when I pitched them a case study I created on a circular pair of jeans.”  

After hearing about Mani’s experience organizing an upcycling design contest at her previous school, the Sustainability Team asked her to work with them on creating something similar at A&F Co. to celebrate Earth Month.  

While associates are encouraged year-round to learn about A&F Co.’s environmental efforts, Earth Month is always a particularly timely moment to stress the importance of sustainability.  

“Upcycling plays a crucial role in creating a more circular production system,” Mani explained. “[It] remains one of the most effective ways of diverting textiles from the landfill while preserving their integrity.” 

Associate Millie Prechtel, Assistant Technical Designer for the abercrombie kids Girls Team, was excited to participate in the upcycling challenge. “I thought it was a wonderful way for the company to celebrate sustainability as well as associates’ creativity,” said Prechtel. “I loved seeing what everyone was able to achieve and create with the denim scraps.”  

While some participants worked solo, others joined forces to work in pairs. Elizabeth Slywka, Sourcing Coordinator for abercrombie kid’s Boys, partnered up with Elyssa Jones, Sourcing Coordinator for Abercrombie Womens. 

“We met in college while working on our sewing collections in fashion club,” Slywka told us. “We are so happy that we’re now coworkers and get to collaborate again!” 

Jones agreed, reminiscing about her and Slywka spending hours a week in sewing workshops. She said, “It was the obvious choice to team up!” 

According to the duo, the most fun part of the challenge was working with the denim and finding inspiration for the look. The most challenging part? For Slywka, it was constructing the waistband. For Slywka, it was the hoodie. “Luckily it fit into the garment perfectly,” she said of the final look, which was the only design to include a hoodie, earning them praise from the judges.  

Once the designs were complete and displayed in the GHO cafeteria, associates were given the chance to vote both in-person (for the People’s Choice Award) and virtually through @LifeatANF on Instagram (for the Social Award). A&F Co. Leadership also voted in a third, separate category. 

Prechtel won both the Social and the Leadership award.  

“I cannot even begin to explain the immense gratitude I feel for how kind everyone has been about my design,” Prechtel said, reflecting on the outpouring of support she received both online and in-person for her design. “I love making clothes, so it was very rewarding and humbling to receive so much love and positivity for something I created.”  

The award for the Leadership vote was a professional photoshoot in one of the GHO photo studios. Prechtel, who designed a secondary outfit to wear herself during the shoot, confirmed it was surreal seeing her garments brought to life

This was the first upcycling contest held at GHO and it helped bring associates from all over the company together. Mani said she would like to see this contest continue annually. “I think as awareness grows year by year, [the contest] can evolve to include different categories, more prizes, and more opportunities for associate engagement.”