In Partnership with:

Fashion Designer Kevin Leonel Showcases Sustainability & Style With His One-Of-A-Kind Sportswear Pieces

Photo by Nicholas Bui for Remezcla
In Partnership with:

Lately, a growing awareness about the ecological impacts of fast fashion is leading shoppers and designers to embrace the concept of repurposing clothing and fabric. Additionally, with the roughly 20-year fashion trend cycle, it’s become advantageous to hang on to your wardrobe to re-wear in the future rather than constantly buying new.

Buying vintage has become the new luxury wear for Millennials and Gen-Z and Y2K-era style is now experiencing its comeback, inspiring various designers to reinterpret the early-aughts aesthetic–think jersey dresses, tracksuits, and oversized sport-logo bombers. With sustainability in mind, Dominican-American fashion designer Kevin Leonel is part of the growing tide of designers repurposing vintage into their garments.

Typically patterns are cut from large bolts of fabric, producing tons of textile waste from scraps that aren’t sized to fit more pattern pieces. Each year textile waste amounts to a staggering 92 million tons, and nearly 20% of that total is attributed to the U.S. To challenge waste culture, eco-conscious designers are using sewing techniques that repurpose scraps into patchwork designs. Leonel uniquely blends these elements to breathe new life into existing fabrics with his fresh take of combining antique textiles and sports memorabilia.

Presented by all-new Toyota Prius, we accompany Leonel in the process of “Re-aesthetic” to observe his craft of creating a stylish one-of-one sportswear piece. Dressed in a signature red, white, and blue hoodie upcycled from a crochet afghan, the Dominican-American designer cruises towards one of his hometown Brooklyn, New York antique shops. Here, he derives much of his inspiration and finds a treasure trove of formerly discarded materials to reimagine.

This new era of fashion that Leonel is a part of ushering in de-prioritizes the fast, new, and ready-made ethos the industry is accustomed to running on. His slow fashion philosophy stands front and center as he carefully sifts through embroidered floral linens reminiscent of the tablecloths and curtains often found at our abuela’s homes, along with several vintage pennant sport banners. “When I’m looking for fabrics to upcycle, I want it to look old and used because that is a part of the storytelling,” Leonel remarks while curating his selections. The intertwining of nostalgia and modernity, combined with the anecdotes of sports memorabilia, has garnered Leonel recognition from celebrity sports players and musicians honored to wear and co-sign his creations.

Once Leonel is content with the finds for his upcoming project, he embarks into the completely redesigned Prius transporting the antique discoveries to his design studio. As with the ride along the way through Midwood Brooklyn, the New York designer appreciates the beauty of exploration and knowledge gained throughout his design journey. Whether that entails the art of procuring fabrics, the practice of constructing a garment, or in Leonel’s endeavor of honing this newfound fashion skillset in 2020.

That same year urged a reckoning on fashion to become more aware of the social and environmental costs of fashion production and to ameliorate diversity and inclusivity within the industry. According to Zippia Fashion Designer and Demographics, only 11.9% of fashion designers are Latine, and 7.3% are Black. Meaning, the unique contributions and skills of designers like Leonel have often gone either under-recognized or under-appreciated. Fashion design has bestowed a new avenue of expression, enabling Leonel to explore uncharted aspects of himself while using his distinct design narrative to trail blaze the uncharted regions of the fashion industry.

Mirroring the drive of the Prius’ aluminum alloy wheels gliding atop the Brooklyn pavement, Leonel gracefully floats his sewing machine’s silver presser foot and needle threading through the embroidered linen and pennant banner fabrics, demonstrating his design prowess of molding form into these materials as a renewed silhouette. “What I’m trying to create is slow fashion… thoughtful fashion, we should take something that’s already existing and give it that new form,” states the eco-friendly designer.

As Leonel represents a new future of fashion, one that is environmentally sustainable and conscious, we witness the ‘re-aesthetic’ story of a garment born anew referencing his passion for sports and upcycled antiques. Leonel’s garment-making process culminates in the proud embodiment of his cultural roots : an ivory linen coach jacket adorned with polychromatic floral embroidery, accented with red chenille letterman patches to flaunt his home state, Nueva York. On the rear view, a varicolored patchwork of Coney Island, Dominican Republic, and New York City pennant sports banners are stitched into a prismatic design. His jacket’s sleek contour harmonizes with the Prius’ smooth curves and highlights the future forward construction details to stun from every angle.