With climate change taking center stage and a global outcry for industries and governments to take actionable measures that deliver results, Upcycling has found its moment of glory. In a world still peddling trendy throw away fashion at a lightning pace, the global fashion industry is being called out for its massive waste problem. Historically, various fashion brands have been known to destroy their unsold inventory rather than selling them off with discounts or sales. With sustainability being the demand from consumers, upcycling offers a practical solution that brands have started to utilize and promote as part of their brand communique’.
Upcycling is the process of using materials that would otherwise be waste to make something highly desirable or usable. It literally involves using or salvaging someone else’s used pieces and reusing them to create Objet d’art which consumers instantly fall in love with. However, Upcycling is absolutely different from recycling. Unlike recycling, upcycling is a more creative expression that uses rejected or vintage fashion or products to create unique pieces that are aimed to be used again based on current trends.
Upcycling offers various benefits however the top 3 reasons that appeal the most are:
- Sustainability: With the reuse of vintage, used, or rejected materials, and products, brands can save tons of raw material which would be otherwise used to produce brand new goods. For instance, the clothing production industry produces between 330 million to 832 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, enough to heat and power between 31.6 million and 79.7 million homes for a year.
- Individualization: The biggest draw of upcycling is the fact that it addresses the need of consumers’ individual tastes in fashion and products. It offers a ‘uniqueness’ with an eclectic mix of ‘Vintage and modern’ that most fashion brands have not offered
- Cost Saving: As per a Greenpeace report, by addressing the environmental and societal fallout of its current practices, the fashion industry could save the global economy $160 billion each year.
Additionally, various industry reports also show that brands that have adopted and promote sustainable measures have seen a tremendous rise in their sales. This is driven by the fact that due to such measures, consumers relate with the brands better and in turn become brand loyalists.
And it makes sense. Several Fashion Brands have made upcycling their primary production methodology and consumers are loving it. Here’s a list of a few that have done exceptionally well.
- Elvis & Kresse
(Image Source – Elvis & Kresse)
The multi-award-winning luxury brand, Elvis & Kresse crafts reclaimed materials into sustainable luxury lifestyle bags and accessories. Decommissioned fire-hoses, coffee sacks, rejected super premium leather fragments, boat sails and various other such raw material is used to handcraft luxury lifestyle accessories. The brand further donates 50% of its profits back to charities. In 2017 the Burberry Foundation partnered with Elvis & Kresse to tackle the even greater global problem of leather waste. The Five-year partnership will help reuse almost 120 tonnes of leather off-cuts from Burberry which would then be recrafted into new luxury items, designed and sold by Elvis & Kresse.
(Image Source – The Firefighter Turnout Bags)
The Firefighter Turnout Bags is an American company that uses expired firefighter gear and recycles them to create stylish bags. Consumers love it simply because the material used is from uniforms of actual firefighters who had used these uniforms during active duty. Prices range from $65 for a wallet to $315 for a duffel bag. A major hit, the brand has been busy selling these goods across America.
- Christopher Raeburn – London, UK
(Image Source – Christopher Raeburn)
A brand eponymous with sustainable and intelligent fashion design for a global audience, Christopher Raeburn uses upcycled materials to create fashion products that are unique, trendy and sustainable at the same time.
(Image source – reformation)
The chic and trendy Los Angeles based fashion brand uses vintage clothing and rescues deadstock fabric from fashion houses and eco-friendly material to produce sexy and modern styles that consumers are in love with. Not just in fashion clothing, Reformation utilizes sustainable practices in business operations and is extremely hard at work in minimizing wastage or their overall carbon footprint.
- Boom Shankar
(Image source – Boom Shankar)
Down in Australia, Boom Shankar is a fashion brand by renowned Australian designer Dui Cameron whose designs and fashion lines are inspired by her time spent in India. A prominent Australian fashion label, the brand creates amazing designs with a fun mix of colors and patterns. Boom Shankar’s product line includes a variety of trousers, skirts, jackets, accessories for women and men which are created with upcycled fabrics and ethical manufacturing practices. Over the years, Boom Shankar’s focus on upcycling, natural fabrics, ethical manufacturing and sourcing, and fair trade practices have been the cornerstone which has created a strong following of loyalists who swear by the brand and its products.
Sustainability is no longer just an afterthought. Brands must clearly implement more meaningful and impactful measures to reduce waste. Upcycling is that solution which not only reduces waste but also increases the life cycle of the end product as a raw material for future products. However, it is not without challenges. From minimizing carbon footprint, reusing leftover material, usage of organic materials, ethical sourcing, and fair trade practices are all standards and practice that must be implemented across the industry. Even with all these challenges, In the long run, sustainable fashion breaks even and gets better with wash and wear while positively impacting artisans and craftsmen as well.
What is clear is that any brand that is able to adapt to upcycling, is able to communicate its beliefs to its consumers and in the long run, stand by such practices will clearly have an advantage over others.