Yoshi Matsuzaki gives trashion a chic campaign. Yoshi Matsuzaki Photo

This article is part of a series on Project: Trashion, a student-led initiative at the University of Waterloo that examines issues of sustainability in the fashion industry through art and design. For more information, and to purchase tickets to Project: Trashion’s fashion show on Sept. 30 in Kitchener,  check out their website.


It Started with Collaboration

In the era of fast fashion where hyper-consumerism and polyester fabrics reign supreme, clothes are made to be thrown out, but Yoshi Matsuzaki, a student at the University of Waterloo demonstrates that there is truth to the phrase “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”

Matsuzaki is the founder and photographer for Project: Trashion, a project that both raises awareness for the pollution produced by fashion and showcases recycled, second hand clothes as an artform.

Raised in Singapore, Matsuzaki previously gained experience as a photographer while he worked as a bartender at a local bar. There he fostered connections with a diverse range of interesting people – from a retired acrobatic dancer to Shanghainese art directors. Under their mentorship and critique, he began to shoot athletes and fashion models with professional techniques.

When Matsuzaki decided to leave Singapore and attend the University of Waterloo to study Environment and Business, he found himself working as a photographer on campus, but like most freshmen students, he wanted to make his own family of friends at university. He eventually became interested in designer Michelle Sin’s work of transforming unwanted and unexpected waste into fashion. While Sin informed Matsuzaki of the pollution generated by the fashion industry, Matsuzaki helped to share her message by professionally photographing the unique dresses. It provided not only a platform for Matsuzaki to further develop his fashion photography skills, but also to apply the concept of sustainability to his art.

Sustainable should be accessible

Trash, specifically plastic wastes, is the biggest environmental crime of the contemporary fashion and textile industry. High street retailers like Zara and H&M have been accused multiple times of generating microplastics, polluting marine ecosystems and abusing human rights in the manufacturing process. These companies have tried to renew their image as leaders in the sustainable fashion movement by encouraging customers to donate worn clothes in their recycling campaigns, but the customer is left in the dark about what really happens beyond the donation bin.

Meanwhile, news brands like Reformation are taking over the market by making sustainable and ethical production its center practice. But to participate in the luxury that is sustainable fashion, consumers must be willing to pay for the expensive production.

Matsuzaki realized the exclusivity of the sustainability community at Waterloo. As a student, he wanted to engage his peers in an intimate, friendly way. “[Project Trashion] is where I want to give suggestions on how you can be sustainable and how you can be an active participant within the sustainability world,” says Matsuzaki.

His team, composed of around 90 staff members and volunteers, focus not only on fashion, but also sustainable lifestyles in general. Since fashion is embedded in the core of human society, advocating for its sustainability will connect consumers to the bigger cause of saving the environment.

Matsuzaki, as a second-year undergraduate student, transformed an innovative start-up idea into the Union event to reach the Waterloo student body and nearby businesses involved in thrifting and eco-friendly fashion.

Ultimately, Matsuzaki is able to engage the student body through “sustainability marketing.” He gives these second-hand, local trashion pieces the same treatment as if they were part of a professional fashion campaign, altering the perceptions of “old clothes” and making people question the necessity of excessive purchases and fast fashion. “My whole life’s goal,” he explains, “[is] to be that big name influence and encourage people to do the right thing.”

Matsuzaki presents a fully transparent process of production: sourcing from local thrift stores, clothing donations, verified sustainable textile producers, and even everyday waste, using student volunteer designers, tailors, and models and contributing all eventual revenue back into the local Kitchener economy. By attending his art exhibits and shows, Waterloo students will see the story of a dress, from production to sales, and realize the ramifications of their purchases on the environment and the workforce.

When asked about his opinion on sustainability being accessible to only those with money, Matsuzaki answers: “I want to make these pieces affordable for students so they can buy into sustainability.” The pieces presented at the show will go on sale afterwards for reasonable prices, since all pieces are either sponsored by local businesses or donated by the Waterloo student body. Likewise, in the same sustainable cycle, Project Trashion will donate all its proceeds to the Working Centre, a charity based in Kitchener that rehabilitates unemployed locals suffering from poverty.

You too can contribute to this sustainable cycle on Sunday September 30th at the Old Boehmer Box Factory, where Matsuzaki will host his final exhibition, The Union.


Hai Lin studies Conservation Biology and Biodiversity at University of Toronto. She’s interested in sustainability, green economies and baking. In her spare time, she likes to visit botanical gardens and pretend she lives in a tropical forest rather than a concrete jungle.

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