Upcycled: The Art of Repurposing Fashion
Article by Ruhi Shah
Upcycling is defined as deconstructing or refashioning the old and transforming it into something new and beautiful. For example, using your bobby pin to unlock the door is not upcycling, but jazzing it up to make a brooch is. Although upcycling seems like a contemporary practice, it’s actually an old technique of repurposing. In fact, our grandparents used to do it all the time. The 1930’s and 40’s are called the “Age Of Thrift” because upcycling was a common practice then. Doors were renovated into dining tables, pre-loved clothes were given utilitarian makeovers by turning them into vegetable bags or pillow covers. But as the era of fast fashion dawned on us, these practices were abandoned and the concept of “use and throw” became popular; to the point were it was estimated that three out of four garments end up in the landfill.
Today, as people become more aware of their consumption, upcycling has reemerged as the ultimate green solution that promotes creative ways to reduce waste. Recycling is a popular term when it comes to being eco-friendly, but upcycling is much more energy efficient. While the process of recycling usually requires you to break down a material to create something new, upcycling reuses waste without destroying it, thereby consuming less energy.
As a conscious consumer, shopping sustainable can be tricky. But one way to do it is by supporting brands that upcycle. Even if you’re not crafty yourself, you know you are investing in fashion that is.
Here are our pick of top 5 emerging brands that are changing the way fashion is made and consumed by the means of upcycling.
Wolf and Lamb
LA based Allison Reynolds started Wolf and Lamb in 2015. She had always adored leather jackets and felt that the quality and construction of them isn’t what it used to be (thanks to fast fashion). So to carry forward her love for leather jackets, she began to source vintage finds from all over America that just needed a little tender love and care. Allison reconstructs these jackets, altering the size yet keeping the detail, seams and hardware intact. Wolf and Lamb are all about slow fashion. By upcycling old leather goods, they are not just cruelty-free but also preserve the tradition, revamp it to suit modern times and create pieces that are timeless and lasting.
Bottletop began in 2002 through design collaboration with the iconic British fashion house Mulberry, as an initiative to support artisans in Africa. Upcycling aluminium tops on cans, Bottletop transforms trash into treasure, creating glamorous accessories and clothing from waste. Their philosophy is the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. This is truly a brand that believes in innovation and sustainability as a way of life.
Pero – Mended with Love
Péro is a brand that believes in honouring traditions. The authenticity of Péro is in their textile process, where materials are passed through the hands of one craftsperson to another, carrying forward the Indian tradition of handcrafting and creating pieces that are at once unique yet contemporary. Péro’s creator Aneeth Arora initiated an upcycling project where you can take your old belongings and give it a brand new makeover by adding quirky and colourful handmade details. The in-house team works with you to give you an upcycled garment that is bespoke and has a story to tell.
Sophie Andersson started the lingerie brand Anekdot in 2015. She believes that lingerie is easy to upcycle as the material required are very little and the finished product looks beautiful, without having a ‘patchwork aesthetic’. Anekdot uses production leftovers, end of lines, dead-stock or unused vintage – mainly hailing from Italy and London. Sophie says that she loves using delicate vintage lace that she sources from small antique shops during her travels. With a great fit and little details like adjustable the shoulder straps in the front, Anekdot’s lingerie is not just sustainable; they are very comfortable too.
Barron and Jamie Mazur launched Re/Done in 2014. They started by selling 120 repurposed vintage Levi’s that were sold out in in just 25 minutes! Made for fashion-conscious crowd, Re/done is a brand for this generation. The upcycling process involves sourcing denim for heritage brands and American-made jeans that are then washed, taken apart and sewn back together to a brand new pair of denim. The duo started with jean pants but today they have extended their range to skirts, shorts and jackets. In their own words, RE/DONE is a movement to restore individuality in the luxury fashion space that keeps heritage brands relevant and creates sustainable fashion.
Stay tuned for more tips and tricks on how to build an ethical closet.