OAP influencer makes outfits out of rubbish – and earns £400 per piece

Debra in some of her outfits (Pictures: PA Real Life)

Looking at your bin, you probably think the paper towels and empty loo rolls are just rubbish – but Debra Rapoport saw them as potential outfits and accessories.

The 74-year-old influencer has spent five decades turning scavenged scrap metal and rubbish into wearable artwork – and now she makes up to £400 per piece.

Concerned about saving the planet before it became cool, Debra, a textile artist from New York, USA, said: Ive spent 50 years working with what some people would call “junk”.

When Im walking along the street and I see a rag cloth or some copper wire, it speaks to me. I pick the material up and we play with each other and get to know each other and the end result is one of my creations.

Debra credits her late mother Faye Rapoport with opening her eyes to the world of art.



Our mother encouraged us to rummage through her clothes and explore our different looks – she thought it was far less frivolous than dressing up a doll, she said.

She really was ahead of her time. She let us choose our own outfits and make our own decisions about what kind of education we wanted to pursue.

Of course, growing up, my education was filled with drawing, painting and design classes – then I fell in love with textiles.

Debra showcasing her look (PA Real Life/Collect)
Debra showcasing her look (Picture: PA Real Life)

It was while studying for her masters degree in textile design at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, USA, that Debra became involved with the wearable art movement – creating fine art that can be worn, either as clothing or jewellery.

My time there was invaluable. All of a sudden I learnt that education didnt have to mean intimidation and I started creating sustainable art out of reused materials, she said

After graduating from the UC Berkeley, she stayed there for eight years, teaching textiles and personal adornment, at UC Davis, California, before returning to her hometown of New York in 1979.

Since then, Debra has thrown herself into creating individually designed pieces of art that can be “adorned on the body” – gaining plaudits for her work, which has featured in the costume collection at New Yorks Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Now, Debra profits from her artistic endeavours, as she regularly sells her creations for up to £400.

Explaining how she makes her staple paper towel hats, she said: First, I fold a length of three sheets of paper towel three times, to create narrow strips.

Debra showcasing her look (PA Real Life/Collect)
Debra makes clothes and accessories out of whatever she can find (Picture: PA Real Life/Collect)

Then, with about five strips I begin to coil them around, holding them in place with PVA glue to create a conical shape.



From there you can get narrower and create a conical shape or build out and create a flared shape.

I began displaying a few of my different hats in a gallery in New York – the Neue – and people started to pick them up quite frequently, paying from £200 to £400.

I always said I wouldnt go commercial by setting up an online store or anything like that… then I joined Instagram and people started buying pieces on there.

Debras Instagram account now has over 30,000 followers and it has offered a new way for fashion-lovers to buy her pieces.

Debra at a workshop (PA Real Life/Collect)
Debra at a workshop (Picture: PA Real Life/Collect)

I like to think of it as me-commerce instead of e-commerce, she added.

She has also enjoyed becoming an Advanced Style Influencer – the name given to senior influencers.

People have got in touch and told me that Ive given them the courage to step out and dress themselves in a way that truly reflects who they are, she said, proudly.

Stepping into the closet each day and deciding, “Who am I going to be today?” is my equivalent of meditation.

Making that decision, choosing how you are going to be seen by the world, you become a creator and that can be a very healing process.

So firm is Debras belief in the meditative power of individual dressing, that she has devised a personal mantra that she calls Read More – Source

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