“Downcycling” in fashion with Eske Schiralli
You may recognize Drake and Charlotte Day Wilson’s custom utilitarian carpenter pants, but did you know they were crafted by Eske Shiralli, a self-taught fashion designer and artist based in Toronto? Schiralli established himself as a name to look out for with his footwear and design house, Mad mfg, first launched in 2017. He has previously collaborated with Adidas on a capsule collection exploring the evolution of sports performance gear as though the garments were living beings versus objects. He was also responsible for the re-imagined sneakers seen in Disney’s Sneakerella, a gender-flipped musical comedy taking the story of Cinderella and centering it around the art of crafting sneakers.
We chatted with Eske about reusing, repurposing and repairing and his ‘destructive-with-a-purpose’ approach to his work, making it stand out in the sustainable fashion scene.
Tell us about Mad mfg’s original vision. What was it and how has this evolved since its inception?
In the beginning, Mad mfg was very directionless. It was a way for me to experiment with and show the process of creating garments from the point of view of someone with no traditional fashion education. At the time there wasn’t much going on fashion-wise in Toronto. I also got rejected from a lot, so I wanted to learn and make things on my own and do it with people around me who also felt the same. I guess today it’s still a very similar feeling, but the main difference is I’ve learned a lot more, put out a lot more work, worked with a lot more people and companies in the industry, and have shown more [of the] behind-the-scenes process from all of that. I think my community now is more drawn to the inner workings of things rather than the end result and that’s nice because that’s what makes me happiest.
What informed your choice to upcycle instead of using new materials?
At first it was because it was less expensive and helped me practice with existing garments. It was a good way for me to learn how garments are made without formally going to school. Then I started to really like working around existing details to make my pieces. At best it was actually downcycling or recycling — but I began to understand the environmental impact of it all and I didn’t want to contribute more waste to the world.
Let’s rewind time and go back to your school days. What did you learn during your production design education that continues to drive you today?
I went to school for fine arts for a couple of years which taught me to be intentional with everything I make. It made me think about how I interact with the viewer and the storytelling that can then be exchanged. I love telling and listening to stories. After those years, I switched to Industrial Design. My main takeaway was design thinking, which is a process of observation and asking a lot of questions that lead you to the best possible outcome. A lot of people do this without knowing they do it — all you gotta do is bring your awareness to it.
Let’s talk about Sneakerella. How did managing the workflow for this big project with Disney differ from your more typical day-to-day work?
Still to this day, I’m learning from it because it’s the biggest scale project I’ve ever done, and I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without the amazing people in the costume department. There were so many moving parts and it was just so much faster than I was used to at the time. The process was the exact same that I normally work within, but it was the timeline that was sped up, so I had to work with many people on a daily basis rather than just me and one or two other people like I usually do.
Where do you get your inspiration for fashion and are there any creators you’re particularly inspired by?
That is a good question! Because lately I’ve been experiencing so much burnout… like never before and I’m not very inspired. Things that would normally inspire me just don’t anymore, and I’m experiencing a bit of resentment towards that part of my work and maybe even the industry itself. I used to be really into reading parts of a book or listening to parts of a song and trying to visualize what that would look like as a garment.
When collaborating with a brand, how do you remain authentic while ensuring the client’s expectations are met?
A lot of communication — ask questions, be vocal, overshare —whatever it takes to get on the same page. Good working relationships start with a brand coming to you specifically for the aspects of your work that make you who you are and sometimes you have to remind them of that.
Are there any projects you have coming up you can talk about?
Myself and burnout. But seriously, I have to work on that first before taking on more projects and resenting them. As a person I know I am so much more than my work but when my identity is so tied up in what I do and the output or meaning of the work changes I’m like well… then who am I? I’m still learning how to balance trying to make money while being happy. I’m not sure if this is a good enough answer but it’s real and I don’t think people talk about it enough. Burnout is scary and exciting.
Enjoyed reading this designer interview? Check out Olivia Rubens, the Canadian Designer Crafting Sustainable Fashion Chaos on Glossi Mag.
Rachel Romu is a Glossi Mag contributor.
They are an advocate for disability visibility and inclusion in the entertainment industry, an ATV stunt-driver and a zealous reality TV fan.