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Beyoncé included upcycled PP folders in her latest album, 'Renaissance'

Jun 07, 2023

Beyoncé wearing Bethany Cordwell’s bodysuit.

Brisbane, Australia — The black-and-white bodysuit that Beyoncé wears in promotional videos for her latest album, "Renaissance," was once a stack of polypropylene stationery folders.

The unique design was handcrafted by Australian designer Bethany Cordwell, 26, who works in the wardrobe department for the Queensland Ballet Co.

Cordwell's avant garde design, built from chips of plastic cut from PP folders, was in a collection featured on an Instagram account called Up Next Designer that is popular with celebrities. Beyoncé's styling team spotted it and contacted her to ask if they could purchase a similar bodysuit.

Cordwell had no time to create a new one, so the original item was freighted to Los Angeles. Fortunately, the sizing was correct. Cordwell added a pair of matching plastic earrings, also made from chips cut from PP stationery folders, and she is delighted that they, too, feature in the album's promotional material.

Cordwell won't reveal how much Beyoncé paid for the bodysuit. "It's a price I am very happy with, that's all I'm saying," she told Plastics News in an interview.

Her inspiration came from a part-time, casual job in a large Australian stationery chain where she worked while studying for a four-year Bachelor of Design, majoring in fashion design. She graduated in 2018.

"I love thinking of different ways to repurpose materials. If it can go under my sewing machine or be sewn by hand, I can transform it," she said.

Cordwell liked the shiny finish on PP folders so she progressively purchased about 100 for her eight-piece collection that included the bodysuit.

She hand-cut scale-shaped shapes, each about 2 inches square, from the folders, with about 12,000 separate pieces going into the bodysuit alone. It took a month to hand-cut all the pieces and sew them together.

"I don't do things the easy way. But plastic is surprisingly good with the sewing machine; it's not too thick," she said.

Cordwell initially thought the email from Beyoncé's team was a hoax. But she was excited once she realized it was genuine.

The black-and-white range that features on the Instagram account was made at her home, the promotional images were shot at home, and the materials were all "things you can buy cheaply and experiment with."

A post shared by Bethany Cordwell (@bethanycordwell.creative)


"I like to create something that can be worn instead of being on a canvas on the wall," she said.

Her graduation collection included a blue jumpsuit outfit that incorporates plastic pieces that were once part of a kids' jumping castle and large plastic shopping bags.

Cordwell's designs are for sale on her website, but Beyoncé is her first paying customer.

She is now working on more wearable pieces and aims to continue including varied plastic items in her collections. "I like being inspired by what's around you; it's inventive," she said.

In her day job, Cordwell creates the costumes for professional ballet dancers and, on performance evenings, is on hand to ensure repairs can be done on the fly.

While few might understand the connection between the lyrics and the title of the singer's hit "Plastic Off the Sofa," it's definitely plastic on the body when Beyoncé wears the Australian-designed and -manufactured bodysuit.

Cordwell is a finalist in the World of Wearable Art (WOW) festival in Wellington, New Zealand, with a design that again features scales cut from PP folders. However, like the price Beyoncé paid, it's a secret. But all will be revealed after the awards night on Sept. 30.

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Brisbane, Australia