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Brown-RISD dual degree student’s upcycling project Missing Button partners with Brown Bookstore

Following successful online sales to alums, in-store launch set for Family Weekend

<p>According to the RISD Store website, Missing Button “partners with university stores to promote sustainable practices by upcycling unsold overstock into unique and timeless spirit-wear designs.”</p><p>Courtesy of Glory Lee</p>

According to the RISD Store website, Missing Button “partners with university stores to promote sustainable practices by upcycling unsold overstock into unique and timeless spirit-wear designs.”

Courtesy of Glory Lee

This fall, the Brown Bookstore is partnering with Missing Button, an upcycling project led by Brown and Rhode Island School of Design students. 

Missing Button announced the collaboration in an Instagram post on Sept. 18, when they revealed that they would begin selling online to alums on Sept. 22 and in stores over Family Weekend on Oct. 21. 

According to the RISD Store website, Missing Button “partners with university stores to promote sustainable practices by upcycling unsold overstock into unique and timeless spiritwear designs.” Missing Button aims to create a circular economy – a model of consumption which utilizes existing materials and products for as long as possible – while maintaining an “elevated sense of design and comfort,” the website says.

Missing Button was founded by SeungHee Lee ’24, a Brown-RISD Dual Degree student who goes by Glory and studies apparel design at RISD. The Missing Button team is also made up of graphic designer Eleanor Ryan, a RISD student, and Lee’s sister, Victory Lee, a student at Yale pursuing project management. Many of Lee’s Brown and RISD friends help with modeling the apparel. 

Lee said she attempted to center sustainability in her work as a RISD apparel major, but felt that her reach was limited. “At the same time,” she wrote in an email to The Herald, “I was hoping that the RISD Store would sell more fashion-forward RISD merch and also have a section where they showcase current undergraduate students' works.” 

Lee also realized that the RISD store, like many retail businesses, faces problems with excess merchandise that are both harmful to their profits and the environment. “All these thoughts prompted me to start Missing Button with the focus on upcycling … to create something ‘new’ only using what we already have,” she wrote. 

“The RISD Store directors and staff were incredibly welcoming of my idea and generous to guide me throughout the whole process,” Lee wrote. “I kept the first collection small as a 13-piece capsule where each product was one-of-a-kind.” 

When Lee began selling Missing Button’s first offerings at the RISD Store in May, they sold out within the month. That gave Lee the confidence to reach out to the Brown Bookstore, which had already partnered with another upcycling brand, Refried Apparel

“I didn't think that would be a problem since we had completely different aesthetics,” she wrote, adding that the Brown Bookstore directors were also supportive of her vision. 

“I found that her program, while an upcycle program like Refried Apparel, was different due to the more fashion-oriented details of her garments,” wrote TJ Cochran, Brown Bookstore director in an email to The Herald. “Refried is more traditional college apparel, but Glory was creating unique detailing in her design.” 

Over the summer, Lee traveled between New York and Providence to pick up boxes of overstock items and present samples. 

Lee “presented some great pieces,” wrote Cochran. “We then placed an order to have in time for our September Alumni Promotional event that was featuring products from students and alums.” He added that the Brown Bookstore had 117 online orders for featured Missing Button products. 

Lee was “absolutely thrilled” about the online launch last week and looks forward to the in-store launch during Family Weekend next month. She said she has been in contact with several local seamstresses who may help with production.

“I've received all very positive reactions and excitement from friends, families and advisors,”  Lee wrote. “Everyone has been extremely supportive and encouraging.”

Missing Button rebranded as a creative studio this fall – its inaugural project will be its partnerships with university stores to upcycle apparel. “Next semester, we hope to launch other content-based initiatives as well,” Lee added.

According to Ryan, Missing Button’s graphic designer, the project’s branding has shifted to have a “creative, Gen Z vibe, with a more playful and more colorful design,” they said.  

Ryan also added that they want to connect Missing Button to the larger community. “We can provide tutorials and upcycling resources,” they said.

Lee hopes to continue her current partnerships and involve more student designers and models. 

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“Although very small at scale right now, it's been very fulfilling for me to see everything come together so far and to be able to expand my learning experience at Brown (and) RISD in this unique fashion,” she wrote. “I hope to continue growing this passion project and (to) always keep it true to my original vision of promoting sustainability and originality.”



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