Banner Headline: One Center City retailer’s idea of adaptive reuse

What’s sunshine yellow, royal purple, marine blue — and read all over?

A new series of limited edition raincoats made from recycled Center City District banners, that’s what.

Designer Sarah Van Aken, owner of Sa Va Boutique, fashioned the A-line trenches after CCD approached her, looking for ideas about what to do with the reams of no longer useful banners it had lying around. “I thought, well, the material is so thick, it’d have to be used for outerwear. Then, I thought — it’s perfect for raincoats, since it’s waterproof!”

Talk about adaptive reuse. In a fitting nod to the project’s urban sensibilities, Van Aken chose an old grey and white banner from the 2007 American Planning Association conference, held in Philadelphia, to create her prototype. Once she got approval for the basic design — which uses a dark grey microfiber as its swingy base, and features 3/4-length pleated sleeves, five contrasting multi-colored buttons, a contrasting fabric detail in the back anchored by two more buttons, and a dramatic red lining — Van Aken set about making the rest of the stylin’ coats.

For these, she’s re-using a brilliantly-hued graphic banner from the 2009 Philadelphia Book Festival. The banner material appears in a panel on one side of the coat, and along one sleeve. “I’m all about using recycled stuff,” says Van Aken, “so this is a great match. Plus, I really liked the idea of this cute trapeze-style jacket. It makes the rain fun.”

The one-of-a-kind trenches are on sale at Sa Va’s store on the 1700 block of Sansom Street, as well as at the Free Library’s table at this weekend’s Book Festival. They retail for $159, with ten percent of the proceeds benefitting the Library.

In addition, the Library will be selling $15 tote bags, also made from recycled banners that once trumpeted Cirque du Soleil and Benjamin Franklin’s 300th birthday. Made of durable polypoplin, and each a different pattern or color, the bags are a CCD project, and were manufactured by two nonprofit work rehab programs, Philacor and Baker Industries. They’re available at several other retailers, as well.

What’s next: out-of-date awnings? Tyvek construction coverings? Old carpet? “As long as it’s fiber, I’m up for anything,” says Van Aken, laughing.

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