Each year, the United States generates more than 15 million tons of used textile waste, which has doubled in the past 20 years alone. Despite the lifetime of cloth lasting approximately 3 years, the average American still throws away nearly 80 pounds of clothing per person—a jarring estimate that's helped rank fashion among the world's most environmentally damaging industries. 

Rising designer Michael Laed is addressing these issues head on, with an independent, sustainable brand that negates America's fixation on fast fashion and fleeting trends. Nearly 100 percent of all textiles and clothing can be recycled, so Laed's work centers on producing zero waste, while championing design that values process as much as product. 

Laed's work is rooted entirely in upcycling. First, the New York-based queer designer sources unwanted clothing from side streets or friends, and reimagines them as contemporary, one-of-a-kind garments. A recent Parsons graduate, the burgeoning talent has already been worn by nightlife tastemakers and pulled from for major pop stars, such as Lady Gaga.

His lookbook is a reflection of the fashion, replacing models with impersonators in tourist traps, like Times Square and Hollywood Boulevard. Much like these recognizable figures, who're briefly celebrated by passersby and eventually forgotton, the clothing Laed upcycles had a finite, unsung existence before he gave them new life. Cultural icons, like Batman and Mickey Mouse, are pictured holding Laed's work in an unsettling collision of American culture.

- Justin Moran, OUT Magazine