In spring 2020, when the world came to a halt, millions of people got in touch with their creative side. For recent Marist College graduate Ava Grand, a spark of inspiration ignited her while looking at all the plastic packaging that had accumulated in her New Jersey bedroom. “I was bored out of my mind and had all these bags sitting around my room. The project was not for my class or anything,” she says. She began to create accessories such as tote bags, shoes, vests, and more out of the plastic bags.
Grand posted her first TikTok in spring 2021. Her initial video asked people to send her their plastic bags because she was running out. Today that video has over 317,000 views and her profile has 2.7 million likes. Becoming TikTok famous from the videos of accessories made from plastic bags opened many doors for Grand. She began to think of other ways besides TikTok to showcase her accessories.
@ava_grand help a girl out #wastedpackaging #shein #sustainablefashion #fyp #project #fabric ♬ A-Punk – Vampire Weekend
When it was time to propose her ideas for her senior project, Grand wanted to continue using plastic bags as the main source of inspiration. Her initial thoughts were to create an accessory line because of her reservations about creating plastic clothing. She was denied approval to make an accessories-only line and was told to figure out a way to make the bags into a clothing line. “I ended up incorporating accessories through each look and then it became a full-blown clothing line that was sustainable. The next step was trying to find other sustainable fabrics to pair with it to make it not just plastic clothing.”
“Retreat” became the name for this line of products Grand created. The special thing about this word is that she put her own spin on the definition to better suit her clothing line. “I was thinking, can I ‘retreat’ something, can I grab something back from the social aspects of things because it’s always reduce, reuse, and recycle? I wanted to keep the ‘re’ for the name I came up with.”
One of her personal favorites out of the collection is a puffer vest with an orange zipper. Grand says, “It’s a puffer vest that utilizes as many bags as possible by using the damaged bags as stuffing.” Grand really has a knack for using every piece of material even if it’s damaged. Originally the zipper was black, but she wanted to add color to help the piece pop. “Just one orange zipper can add so much color especially since the vest was mainly clear. It was an eye-catcher.”
When asked how Marist College contributed to Grand’s growth, she said, “It’s a very inclusive environment where everyone there builds each other up. Marist is a close-knit community where you will get to know everyone there on a personal level and become involved with their growth also by positively influencing them.”
Being able to repurpose these plastic bags to create clothing was a “Grand” idea. A lot of fans question if these bags could be used to aid the homeless population. Grand’s response was, “Now that I am graduated, on my own, and moving to California where there is a big homeless population, I can totally see myself making a jacket or poncho a poncho doesn’t take long to make if I collect a lot of bags.”
Now that Grand has graduated, she has moved to California for a summer internship. She says, “I’m excited to see where this internship and TikTok take me in the future.”