collecting bags of 2nd hand clothing

How my upcycle journey begn

It all started at about the age of 7, firstly making clothes for my Barbie dolls, quickly followed by my “one top” which took one yard of fabric, cost $1.00, and I could make it in one hour! 

Quick, cost effective sewing certainly served me well later when it came to scaling an upcycle clothing business.

My name is Bea Lorimer. I am the artist and creator of Heke design – an upcycled clothing brand made in New Zealand.

Australian born, raised in Canada, I spent 20 years touring with the music industry and had the privilege of traveling around the world looking after production and wardrobe for the likes of k.d lang, Diana Krall, Leonard Cohen and The Tragically Hip. 


One of my scariest clothing mishaps was on the second day of a wardrobe gig, melting the back of the guitarists BRAND NEW waistcoat, half an hour before the show!! Eeek! I’ve become much more careful with ironing and have honed my problem solving skills along the way! 

As much as I loved touring and looking after musicians, I longed to do something more creative.

For several years in Vancouver, I designed a small line of clothing, but became disillusioned with cheap mass production and the extra skinny, unhealthy image promoted by the fashion industry.

So in 2009  when we moved to New Zealand with a young daughter, I was ready for a change.

As an avid recycler and op shopper, I discovered that op/thrift shops throw out ridiculous amounts of clothing on a daily basis. I HAD to do something about that.

I learned that the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world!

The rise of Fast fashion has seen brands releasing collections and new styles weekly! Along with lower prices this has led to a significant increase in fashion consumption. The average consumer is buying more clothes, wearing them less, and creating more waste. New Zealand sends about 100,000 tonnes of clothing to landfill each year – about 44kg per person. Textiles create about three times their weight in CO2 in landfill – so while they make up 5-6 per cent of landfill, they produce about 30 per cent of the carbon impacts.

 Society can not keep producing more and more. We MUST utilise the resources (waste) we already have.

Returning to fashion design didn’t interest me unless there was a real purpose and point of difference. 

Goodness knows, the world doesn’t need another fashion label.

I began volunteering at the op shop, and harvested MANY bags of textile waste.

In 2009, Heke Design was born. It took a little while for me to realize I simply could not upcycle all the op shop waste, so now I focus on merino and wool to create my sweatercoats and ponchos, along with bright fabrics and denim for my skirts.

I find inspiration in my own closet; creating a wearable item that can be cut from preloved clothing, and then playing with the colour and texture combinations.

I love the challenge of upcycling; I believe as soon as you limit your materials, your creativity will increase.

 Even though I have made over 200 sweatercoats, each one is different, and I still get such a thrill from making them.

I’ve also found joy in sharing my love of upcycling through workshops and classes.  I teach kids upcycled crafts, and adults upcycled sewing classes, both through a local enterprise called The Recreators. Their mission is to reduce waste while teaching lost skills

I love to see the upcycle movement growing. Consumers are becoming aware and mindful of the story and workmanship behind their clothing. The artist in me LOVES to see people wearing colour, its such a wonderful expression of our playful spirit. 

If you also find joy in wearing your favourite colour, contact me for a custom order. I love putting together unique colour combinations.

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1 comment

I love that you’ve shared your journey to upcycling! I’m excited to read more about what you are up to in the future.

Melissa Draper

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