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Courtesy of the Children’s Museum of the Arts and Will Ellis
Courtesy of the Children’s Museum of the Arts and Will Ellis

New York Museum Repurposes Denim into Secret Garden

Picture of Jill Di Donato
Fashion Editor
Updated: 26 January 2018

One of fashion’s most versatile garments is the blue jean—you can dress denim up or down, and wear your favorite pair of jeans daily if you so choose. But now, New York’s Children’s Museum of Arts (CMA) hosts an exhibit that finds a new use for denim: to create a secret garden.

British artist Ian Berry created the ‘denim secret garden’ as a way to repurpose blue jeans into something fantastical. As New Yorkers can attest, the urban jungle is home to many secret gardens, but none quite like this one. And, as real estate continues to dominate the city’s landscape, secret gardens are becoming more and more sparse.

Courtesy of the Children’s Museum of the Arts and Will Ellis

Courtesy of the Children’s Museum of the Arts and Will Ellis

Berry, an artist who has worked with denim for over a decade, used strips of denim stuck together with glue to make flowers, trees, cacti, and garden creatures.

Courtesy of the Children’s Museum of the Arts and Will Ellis

Courtesy of the Children’s Museum of the Arts and Will Ellis

Children aren’t the only ones who will delight in this exhibit. These denim rose florets beow are de rigueur. 

Courtesy of the Children’s Museum of the Arts and Will Ellis

Courtesy of the Children’s Museum of the Arts and Will Ellis

Repurposing or upcycling clothing has been significant in the “slow fashion” movement that counters “fast fashion”, made popular by retail chains like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21. Criticised for allegedly knocking off designers’ work using questionable labor practices to mass manufacture cheaply made clothing, fast fashion retailers often prioritize quantity over quality. Consumers, tempted by the need to reinvent their looks and stay in-step with what they see in fast fashion stores, end up buying more clothing than they actually need. As a result, Americans throw out 81 pounds of clothing per year, according to HuffPost. That translates into 26 billion pounds of clothing sitting in landfills, which isn’t exactly stellar for the environment.

With exhibits like the CMA’s The Secret Garden, children can learn at a young age how to repurpose rather than dispose of clothing. In turn, clothing might return to a simpler era, where it’s cherished.

The Secret Garden accompanies CMA’s exhibition Ellen Harvey: Ornaments and Other Refrigerator Magnets and is open to the public until April 29, 2018.

Children’s Art Museum, New York, NY 10014. (212) 274-0986.