Updated: Apr 14, 2022
Upcycling — reusing objects or materials in a way that creates a product of higher quality or value — has enjoyed a few spotlight moments on the runway, like when Viktor & Rolf pieced together old fabric swatches to make new haute couture garments. Designers in the vein of Ronald van der Kemp are becoming increasingly drawn to deadstock fabrics. John Galliano took upcycling to new heights for Maison Margiela’s Autumn/Winter 2020 collection, thrifting garments from British charity shops then remaking them into something new. Galliano described it as “creating with what you could get your hands on” and offered a peek into the process of giving a garment another life in a podcast that accompanied the collection. But upcycling is certainly not the standard for luxury fashion, and fast fashion feels more wasteful now than ever.
As laborers, activists, and industry leaders continue to expose the massive waste endemic in the industry, we predict more and more designers will be inspired—even pushed!—to create from existing materials. Thrifted garments, rescued materials, deadstock marketplaces, and new channels that repurpose garments that would typically be trashed and burned — we see all of these becoming crucially important to creating the kind of brand experience eco-conscious consumers want. Already we’re seeing signs of upcycling in fast fashion, like Asos’ Reclaimed Vintage line. And the scarcity of a garment made from a limited run of deadstock fabric or found object is a perfect pairing for the luxury experience.
With that in mind, here are five brands that are leading the charge on upcycled fashion. They’ve got style packed with substance and they’re working to make the world a better place!
Designer Christopher Raeburn established his eponymous brand in 2009 using decommissioned military stock to create limited edition outerwear. Garments now might be made of GOTS certified cottons, recycled polyester made from recycled PET plastic bottles, or repurposed materials sourced from vintage markets and military warehouses. RÆBURN even makes several pieces to order, to help reduce waste and overproduction.
Luxury sustainable fashion brand BOTTLETOP takes metal ring pulls — the ones that open soda cans — and turns them into handbags and accessories made in their signature chainmail. A portion of the profits go to grassroots health, education and skills training projects through their foundation.
Re/Done takes vintage denim apart at the seams and repurposes it as the fabric of new jeans. And when you’re done with your purchase, their RE/SELL program will help you find them a new home.
Reformation is one of the most well-known sustainable brands that upcycles. They make everything from low-impact materials, deadstock fabrics, and repurposed vintage clothing. They know how to answer “who made our clothes” at every level of their supply chain and they care about fair labor practices. Reformation puts out new, limited collections each week, starting with small quantities and only making more if it’s proven that folks want more.
Elvis & Kresse, a certified B corp, has been rescuing raw materials, transforming them into luxury lifestyle accessories, and donating 50% of profits back to charities since 2005 (50%!). It started when they intercepted decommissioned fire hoses that were headed to the landfill. Now they also rescue and repurpose parachute silk, coffee and tea sacks, auction banners and unwanted shoeboxes. They’ve also partnered with Burberry to incorporate the brand’s leather scraps into new handwoven “hides” for making new products with. The goal? To keep over 250,000 tons of leather fragments out of the landfill by turning them into new luxury items.
Want more inspiration? We love this article that calls out Upcycling at the big trend for 2021, along with runway shows of high-end designers showcasing their upcycled designs.
See their collections here: https://luxiders.com/ss21-trends-upcycling/