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  • Writer's pictureTiffany Walker

UPCYCLE YOURSELF ANEW - Jaya Wilbert


Never underestimate the power of green eyes…an environmentalist’s ‘green eyes’ that is.

As vintage and thrift store shopping, better known as thrifting, have basically been trumped and bastardized by department stores carrying new clothes that only look worn, recycled and “vintage,” the green community has had to make true thrifting hip again. Successfully so, trashion and upcycling are on the rise, and Jaya Wilbert with her Green Trunk Designs has a head start on this new and improved green fashion trend.

From artist, to Environmental Educator and track coach, to upcycling entrepreneur, Jaya has found her niche; combining her two loves of nature and artistic creation. Out of her home in New York, Wilbert is upcycling vintage tablecloths, pants, doilies and other thrifted materials, and creating hats and unique clothing accessories that are making a growing business on Etsy. Originally from Oklahoma, this Mid-western girl is quite demure when describing how Green Trunk Designs came into fruition. Growing up, Jaya always had a natural calling towards the arts, not to mention a love for running track; however when she reached college she found herself being drawn into Environmental Science and changed majors. Though she has had several jobs in the field, from Naturalist in a Nature Reserve to becoming an Outdoor Educator for city children, Wilbert wasn’t quite sure what was next in store for her once she and her husband finally settled into New York, and he took a job teaching Middle School. While trying to figure out her next step in the way of her environmental career, Jaya took on the part-time work of being the girl’s track coach at the same Middle School her husband worked, and admits she really just fell into this new role of hat and fashion designer. It seemingly began as a hobby when she started helping her mother-in-law with her vintage store, Auntie Carrie's Attic, sifting through clothing pieces, finding things to be sold. She started having her own ideas about putting different materials, colors and textures together, and before she knew it she was hand-sewing her own designs, reigniting her artist side. With the mentoring help of another Etsy store owner, Jaya began making her one-of-a-kind hats and other fashion accessories, which she would sell out of her mother-in-law’s vintage store. Soon realizing she would need her own site to handle her growing creations and sales, Wilbert launched her Green Trunk Designs site on Etsy in 2009. The name coming from the actual green military trunk she used to store all of her thrifted materials and upcycled pieces, and that also was once the home of her and her sister’s toys when she was a child; making it quite the apropos business name to go with.

Jaya is an eclectic, vintage soul herself. She has an affinity for the fashions of the ‘20s, ‘40s and ‘50s, and draws her inspiration from old movies, nature, and the woodland fashionings of fantasy science fiction. I liken her design aesthetic to that of the romantic sensibilities of a Maxfield Parrish painting, with a Great Gatsby aura. Wilbert loves the idea of taking something ugly, that nobody wants and making it into something beautiful and wearable. And though she may seem shy to the idea that she has become this Independent Eco Fashion Designer, as the environmental industry would call it, she certainly embraces her artistry and puts love into each piece made, which can take anywhere from several hours, to a couple of days to complete. And as her business grows, she is beginning to also take custom design requests from customers, which sometimes entails taking a client’s own keepsake material from a relative and giving it a refreshed and upcycled life, newly designed.

Jaya Wilbert is ahead of the fashion curve with her upcycled designs and is finding success with her artistic vision, as well as, her love for protecting the environment with her recycling efforts. She indeed has a deep reverence for replenishing and saving the environment remarking, “Environmentalism is a choice. We choose to recycle or not. We choose whether to use eco-friendly products or not. Our everyday choices have a bigger impact on the environment than we think.” With this underlying focus, Jaya and her upcycled fashions are leading the way to the tipping point of a new generation of eco-friendly products and lifestyles—letting you be the environmentalist you never knew you were with just one purchase. Let her Green Trunk Designs upcycle you!


Originally published in DStripped Magazine





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