Playing for keeps: Upcycled Fashion
Playing for keeps: Upcycled Fashion that is too good to let go
If you love something, let it go…no, scratch that… How about: If you love something, remake it into something even cooler, something unique, something worth keeping. The fashion community is waking up to see that the only thing we really need to say goodbye to is fast fashion and the days of mass produced ‘disposable’ clothing, virgin synthetic fabrics and unsustainable wasteful production. Thanks to the advent of ‘fast fashion,’ the fashion industry has become one of the biggest polluters and most wasteful industries in the world. It’s a big fast machine, which makes it difficult to stop, but it really must stop. Thankfully, bit by bit, consumers are embracing the philosophy of buying better and buying less. They are understanding that fast fashion is as passé as the notion of ‘all new, all the time,’ without a care for how it came to be. The focus now is on quality items made to last. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean the end of fashion or the end of creativity and self expression when dressing. On the contrary, fashion is becoming more inventive than ever.
Take a look at these chic labels who are not only making some really cool clothes, but are part of a sort of fashion revolution that is taking hold. These brands design inventive pieces using what already exists, incorporating designer deadstock fabric and creating new unique items. Most mass-market brands use new non-biodegradable materials that not only cause environmental damage when they are produced, but also when they are discarded. These fabrics are often produced using petrol and contain harmful chemicals when incinerated which affects wildlife, the earth and human life. It’s no secret that the fashion industry has a problem with overproduction and the disposal of waste, but these brands have created innovative designs to cater to the problem of overconsumption of resources by upcycling materials into new, unique and even one of a kind pieces, including bespoke upcycled pieces to treasure. Everything old is new again.
Upcycled fashion hardly compromises style, as we can see with [DESIGNERS, REMIX]. This womenswear label from Denmark was launched all the way back in 2002 and started off by using vintage clothing and deadstock and recycled fabric to create a sustainable fashion brand. As one of the first trailblazers in the industry to focus on environmentally friendly products, they have paved the way for younger designers to follow in their footsteps. They are currently carbon neutral, and also fur and leather free from 2019. Smocked blazers in upcycled wool blends and bright neon recycled Italian cashmere coats are just a few of their currently available pieces right now. Their style is sophisticated and powerful, and their designs are made to be timeless and wearable, so that they can be worn throughout the seasons.
Studio Circulaire is the new kid on the block to watch. The young designers behind this Belgian collective exercise their creativity in repurposing deadstock clothing from high end designers into brand new modern avant-garde pieces that would be at home on any runway. A metallic dark gold jacket and skirt co-ord is perfect for a night out, and raw denim from Nudie Jeans have been elevated with applications of a wool overshirt. This circular fashion system ensures that unwanted clothing is being repurposed and given another chance instead of being dumped, which is a huge problem in the fashion industry. Bursts of color and texture are married into tasteful creations in Antwerp by founder Valentine Tinchant and her team, including local seamstresses in the area, creating jobs and giving life to a new form of making.
Korean label [RE;CODE] has been in the scene for a while now, and has shot to young mainstream attention by designing suits for the internationally popular K-Pop boy band BTS at the Sustainable Development Goals Moment in New York to support sustainable fashion back in 2021. Since their brand’s launch in 2012, they have been driven to reuse discarded materials and deadstock inventory from their parent company Kolon Industries instead of having them dumped or incinerated. They use military and industrial textiles from items like tents, parachutes, and even airbag and seat cover fabrics in their collections, citing their unique textures and durability as key points of their design considerations. Each item they produce carries a story and creates a new culture of value in place of waste. RE;CODE aims to break fashion stereotypes and encourage their consumers to join the movement for the environment and sustainable society.
Farewell, Foolish Objects is a UK-based studio that crafts vintage quilts, and linens into charming one of a kind pieces. The technical skill of the London College of Fashion alumnus Desiree who started this brand can be seen in the cutting and details of each garment which is carefully handmade into its new life. A cream lace tablecloth translated into a filigree shirt is the perfect example of this. Other designs include a beautifully kitschy reversible patchwork quilt vest with contrast piping and a stunning emerald green pair of trousers made from deadstock silk. Their pieces are easily integrated into any everyday wardrobe, which is what we love.
The upcycling revolution is joined by Loti, a trendy and fashionable American brand which dedicates themselves to reworking discarded textiles into high fashion clothing. They take care to only source and use natural fibers in their fabrics, from alpaca wool to silk and cotton. Based in Los Angeles but manufacturing their pieces in Lima, Peru. They give precedence to deviating textile waste from landfills and working with independent Peruvian seamstresses to ensure fair working conditions and wages. Loti’s offerings include wool bralettes inspired by sports bras in gorgeous multi-patterned neutrals and blacks, frilled mini babydoll dresses made from deconstructed men’s shirts. And checkout Loti’s [+ El Kiosko+], what Peruvians call a Bodega or Mercado, for incredible silk accessory pieces made of discarded items like jeweled tone silk ties. There’s something inherently hot about bralets made out of men’s silk ties. These ones don’t disappoint. The silk crown-like headbands are sublime too.