Making something new out of old clothing is a technically complex process. Sourcing, cutting and re-sewing textile waste requires more time, creativity and skill than constructing a garment from a bolt of new fabric.
Though the process is more expensive, upcycling has significant environmental benefits. It also gives people who struggle to find vintage – due to size or accessibility – a chance to shop secondhand.
But not all garments are upcycled equally. One of the most important pillars of circularity is keeping materials in circulation at their highest value – in other words: not ruining a perfectly functional garment by being too scissors-happy.
When upcycling clothing at scale, it is also important the materials being used are actually waste that otherwise be destined for landfill.
Despite these challenges, a growing number of designers are tackling fashion’s excessive waste problem head on, and creating genuinely beautiful garments from unwanted clothes.
Dresses from T-shirts and scarves: Conner Ives
Conner Ives made his first dress from upcycled T-shirts when he was 20 years old. Now the garment is one of the signature pieces in every collection he releases under his eponymous London-based label. T-shirts aren’t the only waste textiles he reuses. “Scarves, piano shawls, vintage sequin, denim and military blankets are categories we will revisit with a new shape season after season,” he says. Most of the Ives range is made from secondhand or deadstock pieces he sources through vintage wholesalers in the UK who import from the US.
Old jeans made new: ELV Denim
ELV Denim was founded on the principles of upcycling. In 2018, the brand’s