The concept of upcycling has been here forever. Even in your closet. Even without you realising it. I am sure you remember that rebel period of yours when you created a short denim skirt from your old jeans. Or that one time you cut your T-shirt to create a crop top just like Britney’s.
Personally, I do. However, back then, my teenage self did not consider this upcycling. It was more like a rebellion towards the long sweaters my grandma knitted for me to “keep my waist warm”.
Not to mention the dresses I created for my dolls as a little kid. As a result, during one of my early fashion projects, I upcycled (by mistake, I swear) one e of my mom’s favorite skirts. Little did I know back then that my repurposed Barbie dresses would become a thing in real life and size.
Today, the fashion industry is finally paying a real attention to upcycling and the opportunities it offers. It is true that it is a promising beginning for dealing with the waste problem it created. But it is also an incredible way for today’s designers to exhibit their creativity and to go beyond the boundaries of the industry. How? Well, by making a product from discarded materials whose value and purpose are higher than the ones of the original. Quite a challenge, right?
Of course, but these seven brands prove that the best ideas can be born from the biggest challenges:
Flying on the wings of circularity since 1997, Brazilian brand FARM Rio has always been dedicated to bringing mindfulness to fashion. Founded by Katia Barros and Marcello Bastos, the label is committed to preserving local heritage by mixing traditional Brazilian designs and colours with responsibly sourced and upcycled materials.
“We believe in all colors and shapes that nature brings to our eyes, to our feelings. We believe in local culture, and we keep it alive. We believe in quality, we adore details, and the emotions created by these elements, because a powerful product inspires positive transformations in everyone and everywhere.”
Founded in London in 2022, Beyond Retro has quickly turned into one of the popular vintage fashion brands in the UK. The label upcycles and repurposes old materials and garments into new products.
The brand celebrates circularity through a number of initiatives. For instance, Beyond Retro buys back vintage clothing from the 70s to the 00s from the public through the Beyond Retro Exchange and upcycles them. Additionally, the label runs the Beyond Retro’s Marketplace to help people give a second chance to their unwanted clothes.
The brand’s goal is “to reclaim, reduce and reuse 10 billion items.” It reports that in a year, alongside its parent company Bank and Vogue, it rehomes about 90 million items and we truly believe that one day, Beyond Retro will go beyond its boldest dreams.
Molly Molloy, Marni’s former Design Director, and Lucinda Chambers, British Vogue’s previous Fashion Director, started writing Colville‘s story back in 2018. Since then, it has been the exact opposite of fast fashion. The brand creates its daring collections using repurposed clothing and accessories. It also focuses on social responsibility by supporting women-focused communities in Morocco, Senegal and Columbia.
Parisian fashion label 1/OFF was founded in 2019 by Renée van Wijngaarden, who was following her conviction that fashion items should not be disposable. Rather, they should be part of the “eternal cycle of inspiration”.
With that in mind, 1/OFF uncycles vintage pieces from luxury brands like YSL, Chanel, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, and many others. It extends their lifecycle by adding individuality and keeping them relevant for the new generations.
“We encourage designers and manufacturers to look beyond their brand to better the industry, so we can move forward with clarity and have fun along the way.”
Created by Alexandra Hartmann in 2017, Hôtel Vetements aims to give a second chance to “fabrics which still have stories to tell”. The French-Danish label is a “project about transporting the art of memory and storytelling into delicately crafted, one-of-a-kind pieces.”
The story of the brand started when its founder stumbled across some old curtains outside of a hotel in Paris. The first thing that came to her mind at that moment was the vision of creating wearable art pieces from forgotten curtains, upholsteries, handmade embroideries, linens, tablecloths, and cotton sheets.
What happens when a scrunchie meets a bag? That is right! ROOP happens!
English brand ROOP was created by Natasha Fernandes Anjo with the goal to “create beautiful accessories that last and make minimal waste in the process”. The label relies solely on deadstock, remnant, vintage or sustainable fabrics. As a result, its its items are limited in color and often one of a kind.
Roop’s signature design is the Japanese-inspired Furoshiki bag. In the country of the raising sun, Furoshiki is a type of traditional wrapping used to transport clothes, gifts and other goods.
London-based E.L.V. DENIM was started by Anna Foster with the idea of creating a “zero-waste upcycled denim” brand. The label sources unwanted jeans from vintage warehouses across the UK and gives them a new life by turning them into fresh pairs for everyone.
E.L.V. DENIM partners with ateliers in East London, thus supporting local businesses and communities there, while at the same time leaving the lowest carbon footprint possible. Any scraps that are left are given artist Ian Berry known for creating art using denim.
“Sustainability is the ultimate part of what I do. We live in a very aesthetic world, so a successful brand has to marry carefully the two of them together.” – Anna Foster, Founder and Creative Director
And you, dear reader, are you ready to turn old into new?