Nicole McLaughlin Lends Her Avant-Garde Touch to Outdoor Gear

Nicole McLaughlin Lends Her Avant-Garde Touch to Outdoor Gear

Upcycling may be all the rage in sustainability, but few designers have fun with it as much as Nicole McLaughlin. The New York-based artist has made a name for herself repurposing waste into coveted items, often through collaborations with the likes of Crocs and Jansport.

McLaughlin's latest project sees her connect with her climbing roots as the new design ambassador for performance gear company Arc'teryx. Throughout the multi-year partnership, the designer will be given resources and opportunities for her to showcase and share her talent

"I'm looking forward to shared learnings and connecting our communities so that together we can amplify the value of circularity, including repurposing garments to keep waste out of landfills," she said in a statement.

To kick off the partnership, McLaughlin created two new designs made from used Arc'teryx pieces and other upcycled materials: the Arccart, made from Bora 62 backpacks and a used cruiser cart found on eBay, and the Mini Tent, made from Arc'teryx GORE-TEX scraps, strike-off patch logos and a used mini display tent found online.

PAPER caught up with McLaughlin, who will host a series of design and upcycling workshops in NYC this fall, to learn more about the collaboration and how the partnership will unfold.

How was your approach to this collaboration with Arc'teryx different from your previous collaborations?

My concept pieces focus on utilizing used and scrap materials in a fun and functional way. Each collaboration is different, but for Arc'teryx, I wanted to focus more on the technicality of their materials and the outdoors.

As a climber, I'd imagine this collaboration was particularly special for you? Was it and how so?

Definitely. Arc'teryx has such a rich heritage in the climbing/ outdoors space that I'm really excited about learning as much as I possibly can and also hopefully being able to climb with the team at some point.

Why equipment instead of apparel for this collaboration?

The tent and cart are non-wearable, but I've made apparel pieces as well, such as a sandal from a chalk bag, a vest from my old Bora backpack, and a chair and shorts from scraps. The chalk bag sandal was actually how all this started.

As a multi-year partnership, will your work with the brand move into apparel as well? If so, what do you envision for that?

We're focused on finding sustainable solutions and working together to achieve that goal. There will definitely be an apparel aspect. I have so many ideas! But it's about making sure we do the research first and go from there. Sustainability offers so many different avenues we can explore from a making perspective. I'll definitely be looking to do more than just apparel.

How did you approach making the arccart and the mini tent? What was your favorite piece to assemble and what was the most difficult part of that process?

Fun and functionality are rooted in what I do from an upcycling perspective. The mini tent was fun purely due to scale—the ideal outdoor setup for your pet bunny or the neighborhood squirrel. On the other hand, the cart offers a bit more in terms of function, and since I can't wait to go out and climb, I would say that was my favorite. I think people don't realize how much work goes into making these pieces. A lot of hand-sewing and just figuring out how parts fit together. There's a lot of thought and trial and error before you see the finished product.

Photography: Amy Li and Nicole McLaughlin