Sustainable Fashion and Upcycling

Updated: May 27, 2021

Things such as zero-waste production, use of waste, recycling and waste materials, upcycling of existing garments and own-brand recycled clothing.

Downcycling means chopping up clothes and textile waste and cutting them into strips. There are many additional challenges in sourcing recycled materials, designing to minimize waste, and a sustainable, manufacturer-focused production process. Still, it means customers get unique, hand-crafted pieces that are loved and appreciated for years.

Recycling, on the other hand, means turning clothes and waste into similar products. Upcycled pieces are one of the coolest and most imaginative areas of eco-friendly fashion. Ecocult explains in the Eco-friendly fashion blog Ecocult that upcycling means transforming clothes, accessories, and textile waste into new products.

Upcycling reduces garment and textile waste by reusing old materials and using fabrics to create new garments and products. Deadstock, also known as cloth leftovers, is used by the fashion industry to make new clothes. For clothing, new upcycling skirts are made from fabrics from other sources such as upholstery textiles, carpet scraps, etc.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of upcycling fashion, it involves using pre-existing clothes, accessories and other items to restructure them into new garments. In clothing upcycling, used garments are taken, updated, repaired and redesigned, old garments shredded and processed into new fabrics.

Elvis & Kress recycles vintage clothing and rescues deadstock fabrics from fashion houses to create sexy and sophisticated styles from eco-friendly materials, like wedding dresses. This Californian brand makes its collections from in-house Deadstock fabric and upcycled garments.

Christina Dean was founded to revive the high-end recycling fabrics and donates some of its profits to Redress, a charity dedicated to reducing waste in the fashion industry. India-based sustainable fashion brand Doodlage boasts that 100 per cent of its collection is recycled. The brand was invented by founder and designer Megan Mummery for sustainable fashion.

The Canadian moved to Istanbul and decided to design a piece from surplus fabrics she saw. Swedish designer Sofie Andersson has a studio in a coworking space in Berlin. Anekdot is a sustainable fashion brand that she designed and built together with two women from Poland.

As the sustainability fashion movement grows in popularity and people become more aware of the ethics of slow and transparent fashion, fashion designer Aisling Duffy Som Diva of Drury Street in Dublin says the narrative of beloved clothes is changing. Many fashion brands use old garments and materials to create new items. Still, they do not encourage a move toward environmentally friendly clothing by reinventing clothes to appeal to a younger generation because they look cool.

Purchasing recycled clothing enables conscientious consumers to shop with confidence, knowing that their products do not contribute to global waste production and other environmental problems. In this way, upcycling fashion brings a sense of uniqueness to clothing often lost in fast fashion and mass brands. Upcycling is an industry that makes trendy and unique clothes, not manufactured clothes that increase diversity and offer consumers fresh new styles that they can love and enjoy.

The rise of upcycling contributes to sustainable shopping as a whole and serves as a work of art, cultural commentary, and a sense of connectedness. The idea of wearable art and fashion art is not new; artists like Keith Haring and Joseph Beuys, for example, have used garments to make cultural comments; but when a customer buys one of these up-and-coming designer pieces, he buys a "work of art" of one kind or another. Femail is one such brand that makes garments that blur the line between fashion, design and textile art.

As the linchpin of high fashion, it is worth noting that various interesting brands and individuals occupy the space of artful, ethical clothing. On one side are big fashion brands with shiny sustainability initiatives aimed at greenwashing and real progress; on the other are companies like Zero Waste Daniel, which is transforming scraps of fabric that would otherwise be wasted into new editions to create new classic gender-neutral garments; and Grant Blvd, which is remixing frugal pieces into new looks that play with gender constructs and address social justice. Although the jury has not yet decided on sustainable fashion, we agree that this is a positive step forward for the fashion industry towards a more responsible future, especially in light of the recent upcycling boom.

Although everyone should be aware of what is known as insane textile waste before consumption (check out this visit to Fab Scrap for a bit of look), I think it's best to support brands trying to make something special with these fabrics.

The idea of upgraded and redesigned clothing is a growing trend and one of the most sustainable things people can do with fashion. Upcycling uses existing parts, consumes fewer resources in manufacturing and keeps unwanted items out of the waste stream. In an essay, journalist Sophia Lees explains why consumers need to buy and use things they already own to tackle textile waste.

Daniel Grant, who is known for incorporating surplus military and parachute materials into his collection, has created a fashion brand that is all about upcycling. I am not referring to the dustbins filled with discarded fabrics found in other fashion studios, but to dustbins that store unused materials that were created right outside the studios of Daniel Grant's BLVDs in New York City and Philadelphia, respectively. At their doors, these discarded fabrics are waiting to be added to upcycled fashion in the future.


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