More and more people are interested in upcycling and upcycle design. And many visitors to this blog find their way to many ideas and designs. But today I would like to introduce someone, a creative whirlwind with her own upcycle world. A young designer with many fresh, fun, and very creative upcycle ideas. If you think you’ve seen it all, well think again. It is more upcycle art than upcycle design as it is more of a message, statement than a functional object.

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This is Nicole McLaughlin, a graphic designer based in New York. She is a good example of someone who turned a hobby into a career. She focuses on the ever-evolving exploration around upcycling and sustainable fashion.

Unexpected use of material and objects

Her creations arise from an ironic view on design and products. For example, who would think of turning old volleyballs into slippers? These kinds of creations, therefore, stem from the brain of this young designer/artist. Tennis ball slippers, shuttlecock shoes or shorts made from packs of Haribo gummies. Nothing is crazy enough for her to show the world that we are overconsuming. And therefore keep throwing things away. This unexpected use of material and objects enables her to bring the message of sustainability to the attention in a unique way. This different view on the waste problem and sustainable design is key to her success in reaching the widest possible audience.

Nicole McLaughlin:

“The curriculum teaches you that design is more than just drawing and making, but a good understanding of ‘how’ and ‘why’ and what we can do to change the future.”


In addition to designing and manufacturing her upcycle creations, workshops are also an important focus of her work. Through these workshops, she helps people from all over the world to realize existing items. In addition, it enables her to connect with people and support her community.

In addition to her creative work, Nicole is also developing a non-profit organization. The organization helps provide much-needed design resources to young people. This is done by connecting large companies with schools and universities in need. The intention is to mainly use deadstock and surplus materials. And because she’s not busy enough yet, Nicole is also working to lead a regular series of workshops with a continuous focus on sustainability. Ultimately, there should be a summer program that focuses on education and skills-based growth.

Upcycle future

One thing is for sure, we have a great upcycle future ahead with someone like Nicole McLaughlin. She shows in a powerful, creative, and fun way how we could redesign, reproduce and reconsume.

Design by Nicole McLaughlin

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