Upcycling might seem like a relatively new term, but it actually dates back to 1994 during an interview of Thornton Kay for the architecture magazine “Salvo”. The term was not used too often, but caught on in a book that reimagined the way we make things.
In ‘Cradle to Cradle’ Chemist Michael Braungart collaborated with architect William McDonough exploring the concept of upcycling - a play on words on the saying ‘from cradle to grave’.
The term ‘upcycling’ is often confused with ‘recycling’. Some find that the definitional distinction between the two can become blurred, the contrast between the two is all about approach. Recycling clothing is a rotation of new owners whereas upcycling is a newer version of recycling: this method adds more character and value to the clothing by designing and modifying the pieces in a creative way.
DYI’ing old clothes that sit in the back or your wardrobe is an easy way to start upcycling: there's something about finding new ways to reinvent your less favourable clothing by giving it a whole new character which is so satisfying. There are other ways to upcycle; Ebay, thrifting and Depop are all good contenders. I’ve even heard car boot sales are the new spot! This new spin on recycling screams environmental benefits through minimising usage of natural resources, lowering landfill waste, reducing manufacturing costs and all round contributing to a more sustainable fashion industry.
Slow fashion is definitely the way forward - not to mention the conflict on prices. I’ve heard discussions of whether upcycling pieces are overpriced, however once you put into consideration the hours spent sourcing the fabric and/or clothing, drafting the concept and then making the garment, the price seems to be reasonable in comparison to the labour put in.
Fast fashion is slowly killing not only the fashion industry but also the environment. I recently discovered that American shoppers are buying 5 times more than they did in the 80’s, and UK consumers are buying more clothes than any country in Europe.
The fashion industry is the World’s second largest polluter, after the oil industry, contributing to countless environmental issues. To stress the impact of this, fabric production unfortunately is responsible for 20% of water pollution annually as the textile production process requires chemicals to be diluted in water, which is later disposed of. Fabric production is also a huge carbon emitter releasing the equivalent of 1.2 billion tonnes of Carbon Dioxide. Fashion is upcycled in so many different formats, you could definitely say trends are brought back, revamped and put back into the universe.
Take emerging London brand Girl Scout Shoes, inspired by art and fashion, combining the two to make wearable art. Girl Scout Shoes can be seen on influencers, and the street - the vegan hand painted shoes are an all time favourite with not one pair being the same, the funky colours and designs will definitely make you stop and admire. Keep your eye out for custom orders and get your own pair! You can see some of Girl Scout Shoes pieces yourself at the London Represents event this September 2021, where London Organic beauty will be the principal sponsor as we strongly believe sustainability is important in the beauty and fashion industry.
A sustainable fashion industry is a better future for us all - give upcycling a go see if you have the gift of the gab, but also remember fashion has no rules! Go crazy! Experiment. Have fun.