KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Find a new purpose for your old clothing. It’s a lesson about sustainability that literally goes a long way.

And through the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, a fashion designer from Chile is here in Kansas City, showing people how to do just that through the art of upcycling.

With every stitch, cut and piece of fabric, it becomes fashion with a new journey.

“I love taking things that have been discarded and turning them into something brilliant,” Janice Mead said.

That’s the goal of this upcycling workshop at the Sewing Labs of Kansas City.

“It’s one of the founding principles for our organization,” said Eileen Bubowski, executive director of the Sewing Labs. “We had all these remnants. What are we going to do with all these remnants? Well we can teach people how to sew.”

Fran Gajardo, an international upcycler, is teaching the class.

“In Chile, we have a big culture of buying second-hand garments,” Gajardo said.

Growing u pin Iquique, Chile, she became remorsefully aware that the world was using her hometown, a clothing waste landfill.

“You enter and there’s endless hills of clothes — tall, tall hills of clothes … There’s dead rats around the chemicals. The lands are getting contaminated,” she said.

The horrifying images instantly sparked her passion to change the fashion game.

“Why do we keep making more clothes? Why do we keep extracting more resources from the earth?” she asked.

Her classes allow students to take a deep look within.

“It’s to make them question our behaviors, our habits, look at the garments that you buy cheap at this big retailer or this big shopping mall. They might end up in my landfill contaminating my lands. Why?” Gajardo said.

Students in the class, like Mead and Sarah Martin, said all of the pieces they bring in have their own history. They’re telling their own story and putting these pieces together, helping to bring a new story to a new piece.

That’s the beauty of upcycling.

“It’s really inspiring, like, ‘Oh, I’m finally doing it.’ I like what I’m seeing, and I want to keep the ball rolling, that momentum of creating,” Martin said.

They’re taking what they have to make something new.

“We start playing around with the garment. Maybe you put up trousers as a jacket or you put the t-shirt on a different way … We can paint it, we can embroider it, or we can reconstruct it,” Gajardo said.

If you’re interested in taking an upcycling class at the Sewing Labs, Gajardo is offering another workshop Thursday afternoon. See the Sewing Labs’ class schedule here and look for Fran’s class. Registration is required.