By Patsy Isenberg
Flint Fit, a creative project to recycle Flint water bottles and turn them into fabric for rainwear and swimwear, kicked off last week at Flint’s St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center.
The project brings together Flint seamstresses, a fashion designer, a New York museum director, and a conceptual artist.
The artist, Mel Chin of New York City, explained the initial concept of “taking something empty and creating something that can fulfill another destiny.” He explained the water bottles would be collected in a truck in Flint and then sent to the Unifi Corporation in North Carolina, where the plastic will be woven into thread and then into fabric.
Chin asserted Flint will have no shortage of bottles. “I think you have more than one, I’ve seen more than one,” he joked, “…and we’re gonna fill up the truck.”
The fashion designer planning to use the fabric made from the water bottles is Tracy Reese, a designer who created a dress Michelle Obama wore at the 2012 Democratic Convention. Reese, originally from Detroit, plans to design primarily swimwear and rain gear for the project.
The clothing will be sewn in Flint by seamstresses at the N.E.W. Life Center’s sewing facility. Once that is done plans call for a runway fashion show at the Queens Museum in New York. Chin plans to produce that show as a conceptual art piece under the direction of Laura Raicovich, Queens Museum director.
Making clothing from recycled bottles “represents the good side of water,” according to Chin.
Flint activist Melissa Mays – also recently portrayed in the Lifetime movie “Flint” about the water crisis — called the project “awesome” and said “it’s been a work in progress for quite some time,” She expressed delight that the project makes positive news for Flint in the country and world. Chin said the project started with a call to Mays,who eagerly embraced it, and then enlisted the support of Flint Mayor Karen Weaver.
Weaver said the project is aptly named because it will keep Flint “strong and resilient. Flint Fit.” She said the project has the potential to bring jobs to Flint as well. After the press conference, Mays said if the fashion line gets purchased, the manufacture of the line might end up in Flint, which would fit in well because of its rich manufacturing history.
Other speakers included Bishop Bernadel Jefferson from the Faith Deliverance Center, Queens Museum Director Raicovich, Barbara Biggs of Flint, and Pastor Bobby Jackson from Mission of Hope.
The Flint Fit team plans eventually to bring the art/fashion show to Flint as well as New York because, as several speakers emphasized, the project would never have happened if it weren’t for Flint and its water crisis.
Pastor Jackson reminded, as he held up a water bottle, that we should all continue to recycle because “it takes 150 years for this to start breaking down and then we’d have another catastrophe on our hands.”
The St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center has been doing community work for close to 15 years. A sewing center there produces everything from patches, teddy bears, scrubs, and gowns for Hurley to filters for General Motors. The center’s seamstresses also make hunting gear for the Stormy Kromer company in Ironwood, as well as bullet proof vests.
The center provide job training and also runs a food pantry, and literacy center along with the sewing program.
Sister Carol Weber, a N.E.W. Life board member, gave some who attended the event a tour of the sewing center. She said it is well-equipped and the workers are experienced enough to handle the Flint Fit project.
Information on participating in the project, obtaining bins and bags for collecting used water bottles or any other information is available at the project’s website at flint-fit.com or by calling Barbie Biggs at 810-824-9909 or Lindsey at 718-541-1746.
Flyers are being distributed and a map is shown on the website indicating days of collection. Additionally, a truck parked near the Flint Institute of Arts is available for bottle drop-offs.
EVM staff writer Patsy Isenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.