Upcycling in Fashion


Hi everyone, it’s Emily!

There is so much beauty in giving waste a purpose, and fashion is no exception. In this video, I discuss what upcycling is, what makes it sustainable, and how I will be using it for my brand. 

So let’s get started!

Sooooo...What is Upcycling?

Upcycling is the epitome of one man's trash is another man’s treasure. As a designer, especially a new designer, I don’t have a ton of capital to work with, but I do know that there is a ton of waste in fashion, making upcycling a more creative and economical approach for me.

Clothes are made, bought, and discarded every single day, so there’s so much material for me and other new designers to work with. Who is to say that discarded clothes have no value? They shouldn’t be burned or sent to a bin, as some companies have done in the past. There’s value in a shirt that maybe someone wore a few times and just got tired of it. There’s still fabric in that garment! There might even be zippers, buttons, any kind of trim that can be reused. Taking those materials and remaking them is what upcycling is all about. It’s the process of reusing existing materials. 

Upcycling doesn't just apply to old clothes. It can be deadstock fabric or unconventional materials as well, like old bags, old quilts or blankets. The best part about upcycling- each piece is completely unique. Conjuring up these crafty visions may seem like the opposite of luxury, but the industry is changing. 

Until recently, less than 1 percent of the fabric produced by the fashion industry was recycled into new garments, according to a 2017 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Now I am seeing jackets made from antique quilts go for thousands of dollars! Fashion trends in general tend to go from one extreme to another. Right now I believe we are seeing fast fashion turn into slow fashion. Fast fashion refers to inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends, which is countered by Slow fashion, an intentional, holistic, and an argument against excessive production and mindless consumption.

Fashion has been defined by its relentless quest for what’s new with labels creating multiple collections a year, all of them made from new fabrics, where often those unused fabrics become…. DEADSTOCK! For a designer like me who produces on a small scale, I can take that unused fabric and make it into unique samples. 

In the past, I have created collections using deadstock fabric, but I have been thinking. Even just for myself, I have a lot of fabric in the studio just from those two collections. I have decided the best thing for me is to start upcycling. With upcycling I can replicate the process rather than scale it. The benefit of this is that each piece will be unique. I’m collecting old quilts, blankets, bags, clothes from my elder family members, and it’s creating a new form of inspiration in me. Each piece has a story and gives me a new appreciation for fashion and clothes. 

My goal is to look at other ways to reduce waste, not just by using the made-to-order model. I will be meeting that challenge with an optimistic and nostalgic collection of separates. I just finished my summer collection, but I will be releasing these samples under my new business model this summer where 99% of the materials (with the possible exceptions of zippers/buttons) will be made from archival fabrics and donated materials that will be reworked.  Follow me on Instagram or Facebook for the latest details. 

Comment below if you’d like me to do more videos on sustainable fashion. Subscribe to my channel and click the bell to get notified when I upload new videos every Friday. Thanks for watching and have a great day!

Watch the full YouTube video here:

What to watch next? 

Watch my video on Circular Fashion

Watch my video on the Making of my Eloise Dress

Watch my video on my Summer Collection

Watch my video on Slow Fashion

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