Green Genius: Recycling Zychal

Next time you’re staring out your apartment window at the poor souls caught in a nasty autumn downpour, don’t pity the thin, 5-foot-2-inch brunette running down Broad Street with inked up arms outstretched to the asphalt. That charcoal gray umbrella she’s chasing, wind torn and resembling a squashed mechanical spider, is the Holy Grail to 26-year-old designer Taryn Zychal. I was lucky enough to chat with this fine lady (and her three adorable pugs) last spring.

Recycling ZychalImage via Recycling Zychal

 “I want people to know me as the person who takes broken umbrellas,” chuckles Zychal.

Zychal doesn’t just collect your poorly made rain gear. Think of her as the Dr. Frankenstein of dead umbrellas-only instead of reviving them into a hideous monster bent on community destruction she spins them into quirky eco-chic accessories poised to help save the earth and available exclusively on her website. Her main accessory is “The Hood”, a surprisingly glamorous modernization of old lady babushkas fastened by unique Fabric Row buttons or sweet little bows. Her design beckons a sort of old-school elegance and begs to be accompanied by an enormous pair of Jackie O. shades. She plans on expanding her accessory line from “The Hood” to ties, bow ties, aprons, and fanny packs. Pet supplies, such as dog raincoats and cat toys, are also available. All the goods range from $3 to $30 and are made using local and sustainable materials. Customers can choose from any one of the approximately 1,400 umbrella skins hung like banners on a clothesline through Zychal’s living room or popping out of her curb-rescued dresser drawers.

Zychal was born with an innate need to upcycle, a growing trend in the green community which involves transforming unwanted items into something fresh. Growing up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Zychal and her mother scoured the trashed leftovers from wealthy neighbors’ yard sales. Everything in Zychal’s eclectic apartment, except for a modest green futon and her mattress, has been saved from landfills and revived for the better.

“You learn by fixing it and then you also appreciate it more because you made it your own,” says Zychal of the merits of trash picking.

Recycling Zychal BurberryImage via Recycling Zychal

However, one day an unwanted item crossed Zychal’s path that she didn’t know how to make her own. It was a lime green umbrella adorned with white whales swimming around the fabric’s perimeter. Umbrellas soon became a baffling object to Zychal.

“I started collecting broken umbrellas and I just couldn’t understand why I was so drawn to them,” says Zychal as her three pugs let out contented grunts from their perch on her lap and shoulders.

Recycling Zychal Dog RaincoatImage via Recycling Zychal

 Inspiration struck one day as Zychal noticed her favorite magazine, ReadyMade, was holding a contest to find the best upcycled umbrella in the nation. The whale umbrella found its purpose on the back of Zychal’s black pug, Jake, as a raincoat and a runner up in the contest. From there, a designer was born.

Zychal remains eternally grateful to the force that delivered her resources in the first place, those blustery winds of Mother Nature, and shows it through her attitude toward fashion.

“The fashion industry should definitely have their foot ahead of everybody [in the environmental movement] because there is so much waste,” says Zychal.

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Zychal has a crazy selection of rad rejected umbrellas looking for reincarnation at her Etsy store.

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