Ella Wiznia hasn’t bought fast fashion in seven years. Although she went to school at New York University for urban design and architecture, Winzia—the founder and designer at The Series NY—developed a passion for vintage and pre-existing fabrics during her recovery from an eating disorder. “While I was in college, during my recovery, I was learning the physical, mental and psychological symptoms of an eating disorder,” she says. “One thing was showing certain signs of what a body looks like when not fed and, or, abused in these different ways that you can see basically through eating disorders.”
At the time of Winzia’s recovery in 2012, there weren’t many brands that didn’t heavily Photoshop or use ultra-thin models for their image. That—and the fact that fast fashion is, of course, terrible for the planet (according to the UN Environment, the fashion industry is responsible for eight percent of carbon emissions)—led Winzia to say, “OK, I don’t want to support these brands anymore.”
Winzia started repurposing clothing, going thrift shopping, reconstructing denim, and learned how to embroider and stitch textiles together. It became a meditative practice. “It just kind of became something where someone would be like, ‘Oh, can you make me something like that?’ It would be friends or people on the street,” she tells us. After making the pieces she made for herself, now for other people, she then started selling her reconstructed clothing at flea markets in the city. “I kind of had these two things going in tandem: I was working for a public landscape designer but then on the weekend would go to Hester Street fair and sell patch denim,” she says.
Eventually, in 2016, The Series NY was born. For the label, Winzia creates handmade, made-to-order collections created entirely of pre-existing materials. In the beginning, the designer solely worked on denim: vintage, patched and reworked denim. “During my recovery, oversized denim just became my uniform, especially for feeling comfortable in that particular fabric and fit,” she explains. “Having a body that was changing, I didn’t feel like it was in my control, so I was able to release it through that [oversized denim].”
While frequenting flea markets looking for denim and patches, Winzia discovered the possibilities of quilts and crochet. She would look at crochet blankets and quilts, and think, “How could we make this into something else, like a top or a dress?” Now, on top of selling reconstructed denim, Winzia offers reconstructed puffer jackets, quilt and crochet tops and dresses with names like “Granny,” “Daisy” and “YoYo.”
“I want you to feel like you can move around and feel confident in the pieces and not worry about if there’s a specific way that it’s supposed to look,” she tells us. “I want it to be clothing that makes you feel happy and doesn’t make you feel like it’s a reminder of what you’re supposed to be working toward.”
Throughout Winzia’s own journey with sustainable fashion, she has noticed a similar shift in the younger generation, especially in understanding where and how clothing is made. “In the past few years, I’ve seen the younger generation investing in pieces that are sustainable and ethically made, that can last 20, 30, 40 years,” she says. It’s a shift that’s clear across the industry and, according to LIVEKINDLY, nearly half of fast fashion retailers have seen a decrease in sales this year.
Throughout the pandemic, Winzia saw more and more people take up crochet, knitting, sewing or embroidery, which has helped some consumers understand the time and energy that goes into creating handmade and made-to-order pieces.
While The Series NY plays with colors, patterns and shapes, Winzia says her brand will still stay true to using exclusively pre-existing materials, searching for secondhand fabrics and making customers happy with colorful handmade pieces.
Images courtesy of The Series NY