Let’s face it – our world is clouded with excess. And for fashion brands that care about sustainability, many are now focusing on upcycling (in addition to recycling) to reduce their collective carbon footprint. Upcycling drastically minimises the need for production using new or raw materials, which correlates with pollution levels. Beyond the environmental benefits reaped, the nature of upcycling allows us to appreciate artisanal work and the craftmanship behind each product.
Looking to support sustainability with your own fashion choices? Here are six contemporary brands that upcycle:
Bode is a menswear brand that injects new life into antique textiles. Designer Emily Adams often uses deadstock fabrics to achieve that authentic lived-in feel and enhances storytelling through their frayed edges and unravelled stitches. In a few short years, Bode has built its own visual language with patchwork and quilted fabrics to homespun adornments that have become the brand’s signatures.
Les Fleurs Studio is a Spanish label founded by Maria Bernad that seeks to reclaim the term sustainability. It offers both ready-to-wear pieces and a vintage collection of clothing that the atelier restores and repurposes. Its surge in popularity has allowed it to expand its upcycling collection using end of stock materials like silk or cotton, recycled buttons and ornaments. The workshop remains in Madrid and has committed to employ women who are breadwinners of the family.
Inspired by Louise Bourgeois, Rentrayage is a French word to mend and “make whole again”. The brand builds on this message to create slow fashion that straddles utilitarian and romantic design. Each piece of vintage and second-hand clothing is one-of-a-kind or limited edition and is entirely handcrafted in New York and Brooklyn.
Committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Alex Mill takes strict measures to tackle pre-consumer waste, from recycling textile scraps to upcycling unsold inventory. It transforms wardrobe essentials of sweatshirts to dresses into one-of-a-kind pieces with botanical dyes in collaboration with local artisans. Leftover garments that are not fitted for reworking are sold to off-price retailers or are sold at a fraction as a sample.
Priya Ahluwalia’s synonymous brand celebrates her multicultural roots of Nigerian-Indian and British upbringing to the forefront of her design practice by incorporating Indian dyeing, beading and embroidery methods. The UK has a thriving thrifting culture with more than 4,000 secondhand stores across the country. Priya leverages on this concept by upcycling materials like deadstock and one-off vintage clothing that she finds in warehouses. She breaks down the traditional confines and dress codes of menswear and offers her unique perspective towards street fashion.
Conceived from a shared love over skirts, the London-based duo known as Chopova Lowena is heavily inspired by traditional Bulgarian attire. It produces its collection from existing fabrics which are mostly repurposed, vintage, and deadstock fabrics sourced from Bulgaria. The brand introduces folkloric craftsmanship to a broader audience by experimenting with architectural silhouettes for a refreshing appeal.