Get to know Ancuta Sarca, the London-based Romanian designer upcycling old shoes

Home / Get to know Ancuta Sarca, the London-based Romanian designer upcycling old shoes


5th Jul 2019

In matters of high fashion, high performance sneakers don’t immediately spring to mind. But then again, fashion’s bedrock is built on oxymoron: clothes deemed classics become old with the dawn of a new season, trends quickly become tired, and fashion faux pas (think bike shorts and bum bags) regain popularity.

Even today, in an era where showcasing recycled wares on the runways is finally being accepted, ushering in a necessary paradigm shift in how we produce our clothes, embrace has been slow and many calls to action have gone unanswered. And, hard as it may be for fledgling designers to find their feet in such an unsteady time, a new wave of conscious up-and-comers is not giving up yet, promising that the future of fashion is in good hands.

Enter 27-year-old designer Ancuta Sarca. The Romanian-born, London-based designer is resisting fast fashion and proposing her upcycled kitten heels as an eco-friendly alternative instead. A master’s graduate with a degree in fashion, with work experience at Meadham Kirchhoff and hours clocked as assistant designer at Ashish, Sarca is now venturing out on her own, foraying into ready-to-wear and shoes that have quickly garnered a following. By fusing old and new, luxury and athleisure, masculine and feminine, Sarca is giving old shoes new life, and inflecting each pair with a dose of humour for good measure.

“The idea came when I was moving house and realised I have so many shoes, especially trainers and kitten heels,” Sarca recounts of how her shoes were conceived, “some of them broken or too old to be worn again.” She continues: “I felt bad for discarding them, so I decided to find a solution to re-use them and also make something that I would like to wear.”

Originally from Romania—“where tradition is a big part of the culture and has remained unchanged for decades”—Sarca’s approach to design is out of pace with today’s see-now-buy-now retail models. In her hometown, an expectation that “people still wear traditional clothing for celebrations, weddings, funerals” has instilled a contrary understanding within the young designer that clothing should have an extensive shelf life, not footprint. As she explains: “It’s really important that we, the consumers, become more conscious of the vulnerability of our planet and the consequences of our actions on the wellness of the next generation.”

In the same vein, Sarca is aware that this reality can be hard to digest, which is why she approaches upcycling in a light-hearted way, heavy only on personality. Her collection of heels—hybrid shoes that combine parts of old Nike sneakers, updated with kitten heels—is unfettered with neat categories that pigeonhole shoes as practical or delicate, masculine or feminine. Sarca melds these on purpose to “create an odd atmosphere for both the trainers and the heels… My work speaks for all genders and sizes.”

She further explains: “What was so appealing to me was this idea of reclaiming the trainers by feminising them and ‘making them fashion’, so it’s sportswear but not really. I wanted to place the trainers in a different landscape than sportswear [or] elegant and feminine, pushing the boundaries of what they can become and being worn in a different context.”

The result is a playful pair of sneaker-heels that toy with ideas of what is original in fashion and what is not—a difficult tightrope to tread which Sarca embraces completely. “Of course, it might seem confusing from the first look, seeing the Nike logo, but that’s why we have to have a deeper look into it. I believe that reinterpreting already-made items can be original too.”

This attitude also informs Sarca’s perspective on collaboration (she recently worked with Sports Banger on their first fashion show). “I find it really exciting collaborating with other brands and I don’t think you have to restrict yourself to working only on your own brand nowadays. Combining visions is so much fun and you also get the chance to present your ideas to a different audience.”

As for what’s next for the budding designer, the mission underpinning her wares is clear: “finding more sustainable solutions for a more sustainable future.”

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