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Gelenda Norman: Re-Fashioning Scrap Into Jewelry

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Glenda Norman is a designer who uses scraps to create mostly leather jewelry. (Marvin Gentry, For The Birmingham Times)
By Ameera Steward
The Birmingham Times

Although Birmingham’s sustainable fashion community is made up of small businesses, they are collectively taking big strides to make a change.

Sustainable fashion is a movement centered on fostering a shift toward fashion products that prioritize ecological integrity and social justice; the term refers to clothing that is designed, manufactured, distributed, and used in ways that are environmentally friendly and socially conscious.

A big part of the sustainable fashion business model involves social media, which is the platform most of these local business owners use to educate their audience and customers about sustainable fashion, the effects of their fashion choices, and how they can make better choices.

Here’s how Gelenda Norman encourages sustainable fashion in the Magic City.

Norman is a jewelry designer from Titusville, Alabama, who uses scraps or remnants of leather for her pieces. She has always had a love for jewelry, something she picked up from her mother, but creating came as a means of accessibility.

“I’m one of those people who always had to have earrings on,” she said. “If I ever walked out of the house … and forgot my ear bobs, it was nothing for me to grab some paper clips and make them work so I’d have earrings in my ears. From that, I’ve always [thought], ‘If I see something, let me try and make something from it.’”

For instance, the 58-year-old once saw a belt she loved 10 years ago, but didn’t love enough to spend the asking price, so she decided to make it herself. After her belt-making success and because she loved earrings, Norman started making her own jewelry 10 years ago, which evolved into a business venture when there was a demand for her leather creations.

Birthing what is known as Geez Dezignz (www.etsy.com/shop/GeezDezignz), Norman made jewelry for herself and even gave it away to people who loved or wanted it. Eventually, she started her business when more people started asking for her designs and telling her she should sell her pieces.

“When we look at things that are sustainable, we take something that could have been thrown away, something that was considered trash or considered to be unusable, then bring life to it … and give it long life,” said Norman. “[With my pieces], … it’s like I’m giving second life to leather, … a material that’s already deemed to have a long life. … When I see a piece of leather getting ready to be discarded and use it to create something beautiful, now I’ve extended its life.”