Penticton teen focused on vision of upcycling old clothes

Repurposing local fashion

"Okanagan Inspired" is a weekly series of articles offering a peek into the stories and inspirations of Pentictonites who hold creative roles in the community.

As a younger member of the Penticton community at just 19 years old, Max Mandaione is making a big impact with his environmentally conscious clothing, upcycling and repurposing.

With connections to Calgary, Mandaione has grown up most of his life in Penticton.

“I was born and raised in Calgary until I was in Grade 4. My parents owned an automotive shop and sold it. My parents thought Calgary was getting too big and my grandparents lived in Penticton so they decided to move here to be closer to family,” says Mandaione.

“I love the weather, I’m sure everyone says that about Penticton,” Mandaione says laughing. “I also really love the people. The people are pretty nice here and you can talk to everyone and they are mostly very warm and welcoming. They’re not snooty or rude or money driven, the people here really care."

Mandaione began upcycling and repurposing clothes at the age of 15.

“I bought some used, vintage clothing online, and it got me thinking that maybe I could find that kind of stuff locally. I started thrifting and buying things and fixing them up for myself and reselling to others. I really enjoyed the upcycling and repurposing aspect of it,” explains Mandaione.

Environmentalism is an important passion of Mandaione, and hopes his upcycling can inspire others.

“The awareness of the importance of buying used isn’t where it should be. If you research fast fashion you will learn how bad it is for the environment. The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world. It uses harmful chemicals and wastes enormous amounts of water. It is really bad for the environment and not sustainable. I am hoping to raise awareness of the importance of buying used,” says Mandaione.

As Mandaione works to raise awareness, he can see the impact already.

“It’s definitely become more popular now,” says Mandaione. “Vintage is becoming trendy and it is the best way to show your uniqueness. Everyone here wears the same thing from our same stores. I like to be unique and show my own style."

When items he finds are flawed or ripped, Mandaione will happily fix them up.

“My sister Sasha sews and taught me how to do basic repairs like replacing a zipper or mending a hole. People 50 years ago knew how to repair things and it’s worth it to just take the time and effort to do those repairs. We live in a throwaway society, but if there is life left in it, you shouldn’t throw it out!” says Mandaione.

If a piece of clothing is too flawed, Mandaione will just design a whole new piece with it.

“I do customs with my sister Sasha, she does all of the advanced sewing. We just upcycled some pants that were too short, so we added colour block fabric to give them length," explains Mandaione.

Mandaione’s goal is to continue increasing awareness and maybe open up a shop in either Kelowna or Calgary where people seem to be interested in vintage clothing.

“I like the idea of my own brand and making my own clothes, but at the end of the day I want to buy used and sell used and don't want to create anything new so that I don’t add to the clothing surplus problem. I’ve taken some business school classes for basics and learned a bit more,” says Mandaione.

For people that are interested in vintage clothing and trying to be more environmentally conscious, Mandaione advises, “keep the clothing that you think you'll use and for what you won’t use, try to give to someone who could need it! For people that haven't bought used clothing ever, lots of the time there are items at thrift stores that are still new with the original tags. You truly can really find some nice cool stuff, you just have to check it out! The best places to shop are the local church thrift shops and Salvation Army. There are lots of mom and pop thrift shops in most cities. Penticton has two Salvation Army locations and the Care Closet on Main Street is really great. They each give a lot of money back into the communities."

He adds: “My favourite part of upcycling and repurposing clothing is probably the environmental aspect. When I send out an order I have cards that say ‘Your sustainable choice of purchasing used has benefited the planet and it’s future. Thank you. You are appreciated.’ By supporting this, you are doing something good."

Mandaione’s ever-changing favourite song is currently Ordinary Guy by Joe Bataan.

“This is definitely the song I’m going to be listening to all summer. I like older Latin jazz and funk and this song just has the best vibes!” Mandaione says.

To order some fantastic vintage clothing or a repurposed creation, follow and contact Mandaione on Instagram at @clothingvam.

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