Alexandra Sipa is making clothes fit for an electrifying parallel universe. The 23-year-old designer creates corset-like tops and body-engulfing ruffled dresses all out of discarded wires. The idea was born out of a happy accident. “I was researching for my sustainability project for school, and my headphones broke,” says Sipa, who was in her second year at Central Saint Martins in London at the time. “I noticed the wires inside were so colorful. It was also the fifth time I broke my headphones that year, so I wanted to find a way to reuse them and thought about creating a fabric out of them.” Sipa developed the concept, eventually incorporating it into her graduate collection this year, the results of which included a spellbinding A-line dress that took more than 1,000 hours to make.
That trip deepened her interest in the country’s sartorial past. Indeed, there are several historical and cultural references embedded in the collection. For example, the vibrant color palette is specifically designed to mirror the vibrant garb worn by Romanian women in the capital city, a counterpoint to their austere, urban environs. “The aesthetic of Bucharest is a mix of French architecture, gray brutalist apartment complexes, and mega Communist structures, like the Palace of Parliament,” says Sipa. “The women are usually very careful about the way they look, getting all dressed up for a supermarket trip and loving the ultra-glamorous, ultra-feminine look.” There is also a nod to the kitschy Romanian beach towels featuring prints of bikini-wearing women that are typically thrown over the back seats of truck drivers. Sipa’s mother had found a few at a local charity shop, the motifs of which Sipa replicated into a wire jacket. “Most of the fabrics I used have a Romanian attitude,” says Sipa. “Very nonchalant, humorous, and adaptable.”
Sipa’s eponymous label is a family affair down to the handiwork. Many of the lace techniques she uses are Romanian and were inspired by her grandmother’s tablecloths. Sipa’s mother helped to make lace over a Christmas break that is used in the collar of a jacket. “I did the patterns in London, sent them to her in Romania, where she sourced discarded electrical wires from a construction site near her house, finished them, and sent them back to me,” says Sipa. Her boyfriend and business partner, Lucas Baker, also had a literal hand in the collection: He learned how to make lace.
When it comes to the art recycling, Sipa’s grandmother remains her biggest influence. “Her home is one of the most creative, colorful places I’ve ever been in. She’s a very outgoing, confident, creative woman, and you can see that in everything that surrounds her,” says Sipa. “She will make any object look like a treasure, no matter where it came from.”