How to get a new wardrobe without spending a dirham

Is your closet overflowing with old clothes, yet you still can’t find anything to wear? We’ve found a solution!

Repeating the same outfits over and over again can get boring, but instead of spending money on new clothes, why not ‘up-cycle’ your current ones?


As a former personal stylist, Filipina Elie Robinson came to see the fashion world as wasteful. Now she’s using her talent to inspire residents to upcycle their clothes to create one-of-a-kind pieces with her concept, Unwasted.

What is upcycling? It’s basically finding ways to make your old clothes seem new again through the creative use of embellishments, paint, reconstruction, etc.

So Elie, how did Unwasted come to be?

I worked as a stylist in a department store called Hudson’s Bay; I set up their personal shopping department in western Canada. My clients had this dilemma of not knowing what to wear but then when I’d go to their house they had so many things and it made me feel really sad. I’d ask, ‘Why don’t you like any of your clothes?’ and they’d say ‘It’s not trendy’.

There’s so much waste and people just want to keep buying.

When we moved to Abu Dhabi, I started up-cycling my clothes; when I was working in the department store, I really hated shopping, to see so many clothes. I felt that way moving here so I started upcycling.

What is Unwasted all about?

It’s a concept, an idea. It’s what I want to do: inspire people and teach them that you don’t have to spend money, just be creative.

I’ve given workshops on upcycling; I’ve been working with individual fashionistas.

I use fabrics I have, I paint as well; I try not to buy material so if I have boxes of cut-out fabrics, I’m thinking of ways to use them effectively so there’s less waste. I love the creative side of it so I always tell my clients if you trust me, then just give me an idea because if you say you want flowers, you’re not going to get specific flowers!

Before & After - a denim jacket upcycled by Elie

Before & After – a denim jacket upcycled by Elie

Is there an eco side to it?

If I look at it, it really goes back to how I was raised. I grew up on a small island in the Philippines and we didn’t have clothing stores.

I remember my first pair of closed shoes, I think I was 14 because I wore flip-flops all the time. There were no fabrics to buy, so some of my favourite dresses were made from flour sacks. My mom would crochet dresses for me; she was very resourceful. The material aspect of things was never in our life.

What is your main message?

I think just to consume responsibly. Before we buy, we should think of how it will benefit us. It’s your waste and it’s a reflection of yourself and how others perceive you. Do you inspire people with this or are you just showing off? I think as I get older I can get away with saying this!

Get in touch with Elie to discuss upcycle designs for your clothing and accessories, whether they are stained or in perfect condition. She also offers individual and group sewing classes as well as pop-up workshops for those who want to learn to upcycle their own clothes. Contact: and follow @unwasted_uae on Instagram.

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