(RE)designing with Lanni Lantto: Interview

Lanni Lanto Draped See Dress

photo: Yin Tang

by Nevena Rousseva

LA based Lanni Lantto is not a designer. She is a (RE)designer.  Her approach is unconventional, as was her route to fashion- starting out as an environmental and social activists in Washington D.C. The premise of her designs is using pre-existing materials, like clothing she finds in thrift stores to breath new life into them as redesigned pieces. Instead of sketching designs she uses an actual garment as her canvas and lets it guide her to creating a new piece.  This way she creates zero new waste and actually keeps garments out of landfills. Her goal is to take upcycling mainstream and change perceptions about the concept.

On September 9th Lanni will be participating in Tesla’s Style Night where through her redesigns she will explore the transformation from petroleum-based transportation to electric vehicles. I caught up with her about redesigning, her philosophy, and the challenges facing her and the fashion industry.

What’s your favorite part about redesigning clothing?

The creative process, being able to conceptualize the potential of the transformation of one object into something else is very exciting.  Then being able to tell people what it is made out of and in their reaction seeing that they just saw that same potential and knowing that now they are forever changed. Even if it’s the tiniest of rethinking, at least I was able to affect them by showing them what is possible.

You were an activist before moving to fashion- why fashion?

Yes, I was born an activist in that I have always been very sensitive to the injustices around me.  We live in a culture that degrades women and destroys nature.  It may seem that these things are separate but I believe they are very much related.  Fashion doesn’t have to be so superficial; it is a wonderful vehicle of change.  It’s all about the message we convey through this medium; and my message is about rising above the bulls*it to a higher truth.

What’s the higher truth?

The truth is that we all are beautiful as we are.  You don’t have to do anything to become beautiful nor does a flower, – it just blossoms into what it was always meant to be.  Making a connection between our personal self-worth and the value of our natural resources is a big first step.


Lanni Lanto XL Blazer

photo: Yin Tang

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the fashion industry today?

Long-term sustainability, limited raw resources, and ethics.  The fashion industry has gotten itself to a very greedy stage; create as much as possible as fast as possible while making as much money as possible.  The results have been devastating considering this is a trillion-dollar global industry; toxic chemicals, immense water waste, Co2 pollution, landfills overfilling with last season’s trends, low wages and inhumane working conditions.  We are so over-fed by ready-made fashion that we don’t even know where our clothes are made or even HOW they are made!  I ask people all the time, do you know how your shirt was made? Do you?  Redress Asia made a great video that shows a shirt’s lifecycle.

Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve redesigned?

I’m currently working on a piece that tells the story of our transition from the mindset of industrialization to ‘ecolization’ (I may have just coined a term!).  There are so many layers of symbolism that are possible through the art of clothing; color, texture, history – along with the actual materials like car parts, employee tags from the River Rouge plant, voltmeters – all these things tell a story without words.

What are you finding to be your biggest challenge right now?

My biggest challenge is patience.  I have so many ideas on how to bring upcycling mainstream that require collaborating with other people.  There is a lot of integrity behind this mission so it’s about waiting for the right people to show up at the right time.  Which I am confident they will.


Lanni Lanto Design

photo: Yin Tang

What’s one other thing in the world you’d like to see get redesigned in some way?

There is a global movement happening, where as a species, we are evolving to a new level of thought and action.  We are seeing the negative consequences of how we have designed our lives over the past couple hundred years and we’ve realized this is not working for the planet or us.  We are redesigning our future in all areas (from green architecture to gift economies) based on ecological principles- working in harmony with our surroundings instead of dominating them.  I see fashion redesigning as one part of a whole in our awakening to a better future.

Where did you grow up?

In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, surrounded by woods and Lake Superior.  It takes about 3-7 hours in any direction to get to a “major” city so it’s easy to be connected to nature.  It’s a harsh place to grow up 8 months out of the year (cold climate and heavy snow) but we tend to become very resilient and resourceful as a result.♥

For more on redesigning check out some of Lanni’s videos. To see more of Lanni’s work click here.