Upcycled Fashion: Brands Making a Change

By Charlotte Delacour, Contributor

Lately, upcycling concept has been appearing everywhere: Instagram feeds, TikTok accounts dedicated to upcycling creations, Luxury brands. Therefore, is “upcycling” the new unavoidable process in sustainable fashion?

Have you heard about the last scoop in the sustainable fashion sphere? MiuMiu launches an upcycled collection of 80 dresses. The idea: to combine the brand’s features - embroideries and embellishments - with clothes dating from the Thirties to the Seventies found in vintage stores and markets. Known for some previous sustainable commitment, the brand plays on the booming trend to unite its DNA to contemporary issues. But who was the first to boost this fashion practice? Probably Martin Margiela, remember his Spring/Summer 1990 show: top made of supermarket plastic bag, dress in plastic, outfits assembled with scotch. The Belgian designer never claimed he was at the origin of upcycling but we can consider this show as a first step that opened a few doors. 30 years later, here we are as predicted, this trend is increasingly common as it answers the consciousness and the actions around an ethical and sustainable fashion but also because it reinvents fashion.

Concretely, what is upcycling and how it distinguishes itself in the recycling process? Sometimes “upcycling” and “recycling” can be confused because to some extent, the first one is a form of the latter. We can make a distinction between a rather mechanical process and a handcrafted one. On the one hand, recycling textiles consists in gathering clothes, fibrous materials, and waste materials and transforming them into new fabrics and/or pieces. On the other hand, the upcycling process is based on adding something new to textile wastes, vintage clothes, unsold garments. The idea is not to recreate a material but to create higher quality products with greater value from existing ones. Therefore, this technique is a really strong creative process where the starting point is no longer a paper blank page, but a matter of design’s quest and a thinking on its transformation and its new meaning.

You may have understood it, more than trendy, upcycling is an efficient way of softening fashion industry pollution which is second in the world. It takes part in the circular design: goods are reused rather than turned into waste and pollution. Indeed, by designing new pieces from former garments, the production and the consumption of new materials is avoided, water and energy are saved and the logic of fast fashion is dropped: only one item or a few are available. 

This idea of uniqueness is essential around upcycled garments. In addition to finding an alternative to non-ethical fashion, it answers consumers’ expectations on finding limited edition clothing to enhance their wardrobe’s originality of and make them feel more special. Upcycled garments are almost like made-to-measure artwork whose owners are proud to have it and makes them confident. 

Have a look now at our LDC designers’ selection who practice upcycling and offer you, in their own way, different experiences.

Fanfare is a British sustainable fashion brand based on rather classic looks made of recycled and upcycled textiles and certified by labels such as OEKO-TEX and GOTS. Esther Knight’s idea is to offer slow fashion designs that are playing with durability, uniqueness, and seasonless characteristics. Amidst Fanfare’s designs, a personalized upcycling jeans kit holds our attention: available in two colors (blue and black denim) you have the opportunity, for one day, to contact and lead the brand’s design team so that they can create the upcycled jeans of your dreams.

Entirely produced in Ghana, Asime is the idea of two Londonian women designers who work in collaboration with two Ghanain tailors, producing collections in Aunty’s Fashion Home enterprise. More than sustainability, this brand has to do with women empowerment and community development. Among bright colors garments made of African Wax patterns, our interest focused on a series of mixed upcycled jeans clothes called “Repurpose Denim”. 7 different unique items in jeans patchwork style are available to answer your desires as jeans lovers.

Yoroshiku 4649 
How do you Imagine a contemporary Japanese Kimono? Yo ro shi ku 4649 might give you the answer: a combination of the kimono’s traditional shape with streetwear inspirations for patterns and colors and the all designed and produced in a sustainable way as garments are made of fabric from sampling and previous production process. The brand sells three models with an interesting offer for one of them: designers give you the opportunity to choose among 6 different fabrics to make your kimono more personalized and therefore, it allows them to dispose of their fabric wastes.

Upcycling is not new, but it increasingly serves a sustainable fashion. Upcycling is not the one and only solution, but it is an alternative to mass-production and an easy-to-access answer to textile wastes that embodies millions of tonnes per year. Upcycling is not a furtive trend, it is a way of affirming and assuming your convictions by wearing them.