Turning Waste into Wonder

Expression |

How artist and designer Maria Ayala is remaking unwanted apparel into stunning one-of-a-kind creations. Words and Photos by Kylie Fly.

When I first met Maria Ayala, I was captivated by her glowing, healing energy and phenomenal expression through art and movement. From performing as a fire dancer, to painting murals at the climbing gym where we both scaled rock walls, to creating unique upcycled fashion pieces, I’ve been in awe of Maria’s ability to infuse the mundane with wonder. 

Her latest project, Conchious Threads, deconstructs unwanted apparel and remakes them into new designs. Maria says of her work with clothing, “I am only one sewing machine in the counterwave, but I feel hope knowing these are shared waters. Destined for trash…but not so fast!”

Conchious Threads

Artist Maria Ayala

Deeply inspired by how natural light, textures and color combinations present in our natural world, Maria’s creativity and purpose originates from a respect for the environment. Conchious Threads is a culmination of her skills, passions, and desire to actively do her part by cultivating and encouraging a stronger circular culture—an antidote to the negative impact of consumerism and fast fashion on the planet.

“The Earth holds us up… It provides an arena for us to play out our stories,” Maria says.

Midform Universal in Dorinda Sesame

Maria wears the Midform Universal in Dorinda Sesame.

Upcycling clothing into new designs requires a lot of creative problem solving because the medium comes with a backstory, not a clean slate. As an artist, Maria decides if she wants the old piece to be recognizable or taken apart and used as raw material for something entirely new. The structure of the fabric often determines the design and she’s developed an expertise for choosing different types of fabrics that combine successfully.

Maria Ayala

She started upcycling old clothes when she was about ten years old after her mom taught her to use an old Singer sewing machine. By returning to this practice of sewing, Maria is honoring her past, present and future self. “Giving discarded items a second life, diverting trash from our landfills, and creating something dope that will make someone feel good when they wear it—that makes me feel ecstatic about life!” she shares.

Artist Maria Ayala

Maria feels her truest self when she is in a fully embodied state through expression. This takes the form of sewing, painting, and drawing. Maria also expresses herself through dance, yoga, rock climbing, and spending time outdoors. 

Being outside clears the psychological fog, helps her to tune in and listen to her physical body, and process grief in her heart. It wasn’t always this way.

Jadito Universal

Maria stands in front of a mural she painted on the climbing gym walls where she and Kylie met.

Jadito Universal sandals

Maria wears the Jadito Universal in Black.

“As someone who has experienced trauma on a personal and cultural level, staying grounded and present in my body has been an active work in progress.” Maria has pursued many places, activities, and practices to ultimately facilitate this state of being—of healing through feeling. “I unlock my joy and self-empowerment through actualizing my dreams,” Maria says.

Maria Ayala at the climbing gym

Jadito Universal flatform sandals

Sustainability is a framework to examine the long term impacts of production and consumption. It pushes each of us to ask if our current rates can be maintained into the future. Slow fashion is more than a hashtag. It takes time to reimagine old clothes into stylish custom pieces. In the process, Maria is increasing the longevity of the original garment, wasting as little as possible along the way.

Maria Ayala in the desert

Made for the elements so you can be in your element, Maria wears the Hurricane Verge in Dorinda Neutral/Multi Black.

Conchious Threads

I asked Maria how we can participate in slowing down the culture of fast fashion and be more sustainable in our purchases. She replied, “Take time to consider and develop your own personal style over following short-lived trends and brands. Shop for longevity, quality, second hand, handmade and explore! Go check out those weird antique stores in your city. Learn how to make basic repairs or find someone to repair and alter your clothes instead of discarding them.”

Maria Ayala

Hurricane Verge

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