From Iceland — Side Hustle Of The Issue: The Upcycling Designer

Side Hustle Of The Issue: The Upcycling Designer

Published June 20, 2023

Side Hustle Of The Issue: The Upcycling Designer
Photo by
Art Bicnick

A sleeping bag jacket or a bedsheet suit? Easy! Waste couture is the specialty of Ross and Rik McNair. Both are employed full-time, but on the side, they upcycle old clothes and fabric into new items as part of the ENDURTAKK project. The brothers’ creativity knows no bounds.

Photo by Art Bicnick

Ross McNair, 27, salesperson

I work at Verzlanahöllin, where you can rent a space to sell your clothes.

My brother has been doing “fashion” for about 14 years. He wasn’t doing it for two years but when he wanted to get back into it he wanted to do it sustainably, using material that we already have. We started looking at what we had and what we could get. I like wearing this stuff, so why not? 

New life for old clothes

At the beginning, we were getting most of the clothes from the Red Cross. Artists can request that they collect stuff for them for a donation. We started doing that for the first year and also getting it from random places — companies or private people. 

When I started working at Verzlanahöllin, I began collecting their lost and found items. Part of the contract is you have to collect your clothes at the end of the rental period. After a certain period, it becomes the store’s property. Then I could take it, bring it here, cut it up, make new stuff and sell it again.

Word of mouth waves

What pushed us to go for it was when we had a meeting with the Red Cross. The woman at the sorting facility said they had shipped over 200 containers of clothing abroad. That’s only from Iceland in just one year. After that, we’re like, “Let’s do this.”

We only use material from Iceland. We don’t import any material and we try not to import anything full stop. We sell our clothes mainly on Instagram or just by word of mouth. The other day we were walking to get dinner and some people called out, “Hey, I’ve seen your hat before. Where can I get one?” Occasionally, we also sell at my work. We get requests for custom items all the time. The best example is when someone asked for a unicorn outfit. 

Closet revamp

I didn’t think I could ever sew anything or make clothes. I went to college for electrical engineering, then moved here and did housekeeping. 

Photo by Art Bicnick

What I like about the side hustle is that I enjoy making things with my hands from scratch, showing people that what was a pile of fabric two days ago is now a pair of jeans, for example. I only buy second-hand clothing or make my own clothing — if I don’t want to make it, I’ll buy it from my work. That would be my best tip — if you’re going to buy clothing, look at second-hand stores first and see if there’s something you like. My style has completely changed since I started working at Verzlanahöllin. 

Want to share how you’re making ends meet? Email us at with the subject line “Side Hustle.” We’ll happily keep your identity anonymous.

Follow along with the Side Hustle series right here.

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