From Upcycle to Upscale: How Two Young Designers Use Sustainable Clothing to Push Fashion Boundaries

By Jenna Medlin-Roark

Photo Credit: Limelight Addict Depop. Baker models black glasses and a tied cow print top are just two of the pieces sold out on Limelight Addict’s Depop.

Lucas Baker sits at his sewing machine, light from the moon shines through his blinds outlining the mountainous Arizona landscape. His imagination is overwhelmed as he presses his foot onto the pedal to make his first stitch. He is allowed to take creative liberty and run wild with this piece of clothing. It feels liberating.

With every stitch he makes in a cow-print fabric that would soon become a sold-out piece on his website, he says he thinks back to when his love for fashion came alive. 

Baker has always loved fashion and art. One of his earliest recollections is preventing his mother from leaving the house unless her shoes matched the rest of her outfit.

“I think I was about three years old at the time. I have always been matchy-matchy and fashion-driven as far back as I can remember.” By 17 years old, Baker along with his lifelong friend Anthony Dahdal, opened their shop on the popular shopping app Depop under the name, Limelight Addict. 

Their digital store has amassed almost 3,000 followers in its first eight months and is continuing to grow. Near 70 out of the 109 pieces they are currently selling on the website have sold out while they are hard at work researching trends and allowing themselves to become inspired by popular culture and designers. 

Baker looks up to fashion designers with unconventional names such as ‘Fecal Matter’, who Paper Magazine describes as “aliens crash-landed on Earth, devils awaiting their exorcism or maybe superhero villains attempting to assimilate.”

Model poses for Numeró Netherlands by designer, Fecal Matter. Photo Credit: Szilveszter Mako

Dahdal says that he takes inspiration from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  “Though she does not inspire me in fashion, Ocasio-Cortez does through her work ethic and passion. Life is especially hard for a woman of color, but AOC demonstrates that you can accomplish your aspirations while being a young, successful, Latina congresswoman in a male-dominated government” says Dahdal.

While Baker is mostly the creativity Limelight Addict, Dahdal also creates pieces on their website such as broaches and other accessory items. Dahdal also handles the finances, fundraising, and promotion of the business. Both young businessmen, spend time watching what is trending on Depop white taking inspiration from influencers on Instagram and Tik Tok. 

Dahdal and Baker strive to sell mostly upcycled clothing on their website to keep the price down. Dahdal says that the mission for Limelight Addict is to provide trendy, but affordable pieces that are usually expensively sold by large businesses. He says that everything his co-owner, Baker, creates is from a thrift store and made out of sustainable materials.

A pearl necklace and a safety pin necklace created by Dahdal for sale on their website. Photo Credit: Limelight Addict

Once they find what is trending, Baker takes control and heads to the thrift store to shop for the base of what his design will become. Walking down the tan tiled floor aisles, he shuffles through the clothing rack until a white dress shirt catches his eye. Baker is adamant about going through both men and women’s clothing and allows himself to be inspired by each piece of clothing he passes.

The transformation of the dress shirt to an oversized, punk, streetwear blouse takes him one to two hours. He handcrafts each piece, placing the grommets by hand around the neckline and linking each loop of the chain on the back individually.

This piece is unique, versatile, “modern grunge, and goth” according to Baker’s description. He detaches the sleeves and adds elastic for maximum comfort. He is meticulous with each stitch he makes. 

When his piece is finished, he heads to the backyard, sets the self-timer, and strikes a pose. He captures every angle of the shirt uploading the images on to his website. A shirt that cost him $10 dollars to buy, now transformed, sells on his website for $65.

Included in the description of the post is the sizing details for height and waist size, as well as the phrase “DM if you want more photos for reference & styling” to give the customer freedom to explore the style before purchasing according to Baker.

Both Baker and Dahdal share the desire and passion for inclusivity. In the description of their digital platform, are the words “queer owned business”. “I put that phrase on our website because I have made a name for myself for being a queer designer” Baker says.

Their clothing and website are designed for both men and women to be able to wear any piece they are drawn to. “I tend to sway toward creating unisex pieces so that everyone can find something to wear in my shop, no matter their gender,” Baker says.

His website features a jean bustier modeled by Baker himself and showcases the inclusivity he is striving to achieve. In the future, the pair plan on adding plus-size clothing to their shop which currently only carries small, medium, and large sizes. 

“I am shopping right now for what I feel most comfortable wearing. I want to earn the trust of creating for those who wear plus sizes,” Baker says.

To photograph his feminine clothing, Baker recruited his best friend Kaylee Broyles as a model. Broyles says that she wants to make sure that customers can see an outfit on someone and how to style it. As she models the clothing tenaciously and meticulously designed by Baker, she is tickled by his sense of humor and his humility. 

“He does not take the modeling process too seriously which makes it fun for us to work together on his designs. As far as his business goes, the most important thing to him is to advocate for LGBTQIA+ youth through his platform.

He is also an advocate for a sustainable clothing option so everyone can dress the way the want without having to pay a fortune” Broyles says. While upcycling clothing keeps the expense down, it also helps to reduce the use of plastic and other materials that could be damaging to the environment.

Photo Credit: Limelight Addict Depop. Two upcycled pieces on the Bakers website. The jeans feature Swarovski crystals and the bustier is made from recycled jeans. Baker models the bustier

Baker says he likes to work very spontaneously and derives his inspiration from going on social media or finding what is trending on Depop. “When I feel inspired or when I go shopping that’s when I post the most and start my workday” he said. He finds that his ideas come to him most often at night when all of the noise from the outside world is silenced. 

“Once the world slows down, that is when I become the most creative,” he said. 

In the fall, he plans on attending Arizona State University majoring in graphic design and minoring in fashion with an emphasis on merchandising and business marketing. He wants to continue co-running his business through and after college. 

“I always want to keep Limelight Addict a part of me, but I also want to do magazine layouts. My dream job would be to work at Vogue” I want to be able to be a part of the photography and marketing aspect of fashion,” Baker said.

Dahdal hopes to continue and grow Limelight Addict once they have the necessary resources and finances to expand. “One of my personal goals for Limelight Addict is to take it beyond the Depop app and create our own E-Commerce website. That was our original plan for the business but after realizing how costly it is to run a website, we decided to ger our name out there on Depop first” said Dahdal.

He hopes to grow his skillset into being able to create and upcycle clothing with Baker as well as to continue creating more accessory pieces such as wallet chains, funky earrings, bracelets, and anklets.

While Dahdal is focused on the expansion of the product, Baker is passionately committed to making his clothing accessible to all who wish to shop with Limelight Addict.

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