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Upcycling techniques by Infinit Denim

 The pandemic has seen many fashion giants come up with innovative ways to deal with their un-sold garments. Keep reading to find how upcycling helps not only deal with huge amounts of waste but also gives trendy and quirky clothes and accessories.

Words By  Varnika Srivastava



What is upcycling
and why has it become so common now?

Creative reuse of discarded fabric or Upcycling is a buzzword that has been thrown around a lot in the past few months. Given that the pandemic has culminated in an eye-watering €140 billion to €160 billion worth of surplus inventory from spring/summer 2020 collections – more than twice the usual – it’s little wonder that more brands are already promoting upcycling. There are already more textiles manufactured than can be used in the world. In fact, many major clothing chains can manufacture up to half a billion garments each year.

And what happens to those clothes after their “useful” lives are over? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 14.3 million tons of textiles were disposed of in landfills in 2012, accounting for around 5.7 per cent of overall urban solid waste production in the United States. Unwanted clothing is often sold to thrift shops provided it is not recycled as garbage. While this is a positive step toward eliminating the landfill, it is not as effective as many people claim – only about 20% to 30% of donated apparel is resold

Furthermore, vast quantities of donated garments that are not considered “re-sellable” in the United States are exported to developing nations, inundating them with unsustainable products that suffocate any emerging textiles-related economic growth.

While many people think they are aiding with the clothes of the needy in these nations, access to the Internet and mobile phones has lately made many of these countries more fashion-forward, which makes a lot of discarded clothing just pile up in dumping grounds.

But what happens when an exportation is no longer an option since this model is based on a waste economy, where instead of mending or leasing clothing, things are purchased and discarded?

Borbala Ferencz Design

Borbala Ferencz Design

Is upcycling
replacing recycling?

In the fashion industry, seeking a new use with an old fabric is known as recycling.
Garment recycling means repurposing a garment by re-entering a new period of its life, which typically starts at retail.
As a result, the recycling cycle closes at the end of the supply chain and often re-enters the market through charities and drop-off sites.
The breakdown or grinding of high-grade fabrics into their purest raw forms or substrates may also be part of the textile recycling process.
Recycling technology is seen as critical in addressing raw material shortages and provides industries with additional options for handling their raw material supply. Upcycling, on the other hand, involves doing a value-added operation on the cloth or disassembled garment in order to produce a component that is of higher quality or value than the original.
The modern life cycle of upcycling starts with a specification that can entail a full production cycle, much like a new product. To allow for sourcing, disassembly and reconstitution, upcycling will take a long time. 

Miu Miu Upcycled Collection

Environmental Design Leadership

Upcycling is rapidly ascending to the top of the aspirational apparel industry due to the value-added opportunities it provides. As a result, its older first cousin,’ recycling,’ is gradually being relegated to a mass consumer-driven operation in the sustainability spectrum.
As attempts to ensure the availability of recycled products (feedstock) grind their way up the environmental innovation ladder, ‘upcycling’ is free to soar into genuinely creative materials and creations, due in large part to the creativity of young designers.
These designs are impossible to emulate, and they signal a new luxury industry challenge: environmental design leadership.

A Wasteless Choice

Recycling in the fashion industry helps to eliminate waste by reusing materials and finished garments, save the environment through landfill and pollution reduction by redirecting waste to alternative uses, and preserve natural resources such as water and natural virgin fibres by using a model in which the same materials can be used over and over again.
If the demand shifts away from staples and toward continuous filaments, the ability to mill, mix, and extrude fibres opens up vast possibilities for recycled technology advancement, as well as an economic stimulus and job creation, which makes upcycling a lucrative option. 

Luxury Brands and Upcycling

In the past, luxury brands would burn or throw away unsold products in order to protect their worth, a practice that has now been banned in France. With the rise in sustainable choices by consumers and general mindfulness towards the environment, brands have grown more conscious of their wasteful behaviour, and upcycling has significantly become a prominent solution to fixing the garment backlog sustainably. Upcycling has now been embraced by a number of brands, but it usually only refers to a portion of their ranges. Marine Serre’s “Marée Noire” (Oil Slick) range, which debuted in September 2019, included several upcycled items. Balenciaga (shoelace fur coat), Marni (where patchworked outerwear was produced from existing garments), and Coach (note the reworked 1970s bags) have all been researching on how they can upcycle without compromising the fashion essence of their brands. In October 2020, Miu Miu revealed the launch of its latest Upcycled line, an exclusive capsule of 80 one-of-a-kind dresses refashioned from antique items carefully purchased from vintage shops and markets around the world. Miu Miu is a sister brand of Prada and Prada’s contribution to environmental stewardship has sparked a chain reaction. Rianna + Nina’s Kendima album, which features dresses made from upcycled tablecloths from the 1940s and 1950s, was recently launched.


A Longlasting Trend

For now, it seems that Upcycling is a trend that is meant to stay with more and more brands, even releasing entire fashion lines with upcycled pieces. Though this does mark a trend towards becoming more sustainable, let us hope that brands do not Greenwash and promote their upcycled products in more regard than they hold. 

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