Designer turns discarded umbrellas into wearable art

NEW YORK (CNN) - You've probably heard the adage "waste not, want not."

That's the lesson one woman says she wants to teach her fellow New Yorkers through a near-obsessive collection of discarded umbrellas.

When thunderstorms hit, Catherine Charlot takes to the streets to collect umbrellas people have left behind.

"In March, the rainy month, I collected 237 umbrellas," she said.

A designer by trade, she then takes the umbrellas to her studio and turns them into dresses, purses, tote bags and even dog clothes.

She has even designed a wedding dress made from 15 white umbrellas.

Some people are occasionally confused when they see her digging for umbrella treasure.

"One day I was basically digging in the garbage because there was a nice umbrella but it was all the way down. And this lady comes up to me and says 'Oh my God! Are you hungry?'"

And occasionally, her umbrella obsession can annoy people.

"I'll be on a date collecting umbrellas," she said. "One guy I was dating says 'C'mon Catherine, this is ridiculous.' And I say 'Ok, its either I collect that umbrella or you drop me home. I need to get that umbrella!'"

Charlot, originally from Haiti, is shocked by the things Americans throw out. She believes part of her job is to teach her customers about recycling and hopes they'll think twice before trashing things.

"I think I'm doing a lot, all those fabrics and umbrellas are going to end up in a landfill," she said. "By collecting them I'm doing really a good thing. I'm helping out."

Charlot's umbrella dress line creations start at $200.

She donates 10% of every sale to a school she is building in Haiti.

"Not only a school, somewhere young kids can go there and learn something positive, learn how to recycle, sew something with their hands, be useful for tomorrow," she said.

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