Karrueche Tran has proven herself to be a force in the film and television industry for a while now, and Upcycle Nation is hhe. Over a decade after the world was first introduced to her, she has emerged as a fashion icon in her own right, a brand ambassador, an Emmy-award-winning actress, and now an executive producer. Tran is the host, a judge, and executive producer of the new fashion competition series Upsycle Nation. The show chronicles how fashion gets altered, reimagined, and refashioned.
Alongside judges Peder Cho and Jérôme LaMaar, Upcycle Nation features aspiring designers from around the country who must transform previously discarded items into unique articles of clothing. The contestants are all clever, crafty, and fashion-forward. And as a former stylist and current fashion line owner, it was the perfect opportunity for Tran.
Shadow and Act Unscripted spoke with Tran about what to expect, how the show changes the landscape of the industry and future shows, and how she allows her work to speak for itself. The Fuse show premiered Nov. 2 at 10 p.m.
S&A: How did the show come about?
KT: I was presented with the opportunity to be a part of this show. And once I understood what the show was about and kind of got the breakdown, I was like, ‘Oh, absolutely, yes. Like 1,000%. I want to be a part of this in some way.’ And so, to be a host, a judge, and an executive producer is just amazing. And we had such a great time filming the show.
S&A: You’ve been connected to the fashion industry for a while. You started off as a stylist. You've been open about working at Nordstrom to really get your start, and now you're here with having your own collaborations, and your own launches. How do you feel as if your history in the industry contributes to the show?
KT: I think as far as my contribution to the show, I’m able to come in as from more of like a style perspective and fashion perspective. And that’s what I love about the balance between all three judges, is that we all provide something different to our to the other designers.
Cho is a fabulous upcycle designer. And so, when we talk to the contestants, he’s able to speak from a sewing perspective, and he can break down the type of stitching. And then Jerome is a fashion and style icon. So he can also speak to you about sewing, but also from a fashion perspective as well. We all suggest what I think might look right or what might look good. I don’t know if it’s doable because I don’t know about the time that it might take. But we all have such a great balance of what we can bring to the show, which really is really great.
S&A: I like that you said that you could speak only from a style perspective. How would you describe your personal style? Are you into the whole fast fashion aspect of where things are right now? Do you like it more upscale or a mixture? And do you consider yourself more trendy, or do you keep it classic?
KT: OK, Let’s talk about fast fashion. I understand fast fashion. I love anything that is affordable for the common consumer because, as a young girl growing up, I didn’t have the money to be able to afford designer clothing and bags, Gucci and Dolce and all these brands. So I think it’s great that there are sources for these for people out there to be able to purchase at a lower cost. However, the problem with fast fashion is that they’re produced at such a high rate that it is tremendously affecting our planet. There is just so much waste out there, and so much that ends up in landfills. Which is another thing I like about the show too, is that you get to learn about sustainability and about how much our planet is being affected. So, that’s my opinion.
As far as my personal style. I love a little bit of everything. I love designer and luxury brands, but I also love the average brands or even sometimes I might do a fast fashion… maybe not, but I love fashion. To I isn’t about the label or the price. It’s about how it makes you feel and how you look in the outfit. There can be a thrifting situation where somebody went and thrifted an outfit, say straight out of Goodwill, that could look like a designer outfit, or the way that they wear it and their confidence makes it feel like it’s a luxury outfit. I love those type of moments because we’ve seen them before where people are like, ‘Oh, I got this with Vintage Store that maybe it costs $45,’ and they look awesome. And there are also outfits that cost $4,000 that look great as well. And I think fashion is just about what you make it and how you feel.
S&A: How would you describe your experience working with the designers on the show? Is it a mixture of fast fashion, upscale, classic, or everything is kind of combined into one within the show?
KT: We don’t incorporate fast fashion into the show as far as the designers and the contestants. The show is a fashion competition show where we are recycling or upcycling old items and creating new garments. So, for example, we had a competition centered on durags. So they had to take all durags and make a T-shirt. The designers used crazy items like curtains, and sleeping bags, big yoga stretch balls, and all kind of items. We didn’t really focus on any luxury or hot or fast fashion stuff. It was just about how can we take these items that are in our homes, a lot of our homes to this day that we might not pay attention to, that we might be sitting in the back of our closets and instead of throwing them away and them going to waste and filling up the landfills, how can we repurpose these items into something new and the talent on this show?
We’ve had really, really amazing designers showcase their work. And a lot of these items they’re working with are not easy. It kind of just blows you and you become very intrigued, and it blows your mind of just how they take old scraps or old whatever it is, and create something new. Being an EP and watching the edits and the cuts of the show, it was like I was watching it as if I wasn’t there. I was still impressed and so still very engaged. So I’m very excited for the people, for the audience to see Upcycle Nation.
S&A: You speak a lot about how we'll learn about sustainability, especially how how it’s such an integral part of the fashion world and with designing. Can you speak a little bit more about what viewers can expect to see in that regard as the show unfolds?
KT: Throughout the episodes, they do drop like informational bits and hits that you’ll be able to see through the episodes, and we kind of drop knowledge too as the judges and hosts with different information or facts. And so, I think that hopefully, it will make more people aware of the process of how items are wasted. I hope it just brings more awareness and people kind of understand, ‘Oh, shoot. Maybe I shouldn’t be throw this big bag of clothes away in the trash. Maybe I should donate it, give it away, or how can we repurpose these old sweats into making something new that I can still wear today?’
S&A: How inspired were you throughout the process? You spoke about how talented the designers were.
KT: It made me feel like I wish I knew how to sew and design. That’s actually something that’s on my bucket list, which is to learn how to sew. Because I’m so petite, I have to alter everything. I just kept thinking throughout the process, ‘How did they create it? How did they come up with this?’
S&A: And you've done a great job at establishing yourself as a contender in the entertainment space. Do you feel as if you're getting the recognition now for who you are and the talents that you have?
KT: I think it’s still a work in progress. It took me a while to get me to this place, given the very beginning of my career, when I was trying to act and try to do all these things, people kind of saw me in one way, and they didn’t take me seriously at all. But throughout my career, over the years, and the more I was able to do and prove that I can do this, that I am worthy, and I do have talent outside of what is shown on social media, I think finally people do take me seriously. And again, it’s still a work in progress. And for me, I just like to let my work speak for itself, and then actions speak for itself. So, the more I do it, the better I get.