Fashion explainer: What is 'upcycling' and how did it become a style trend?


  • Style
  • Tuesday, 08 Sep 2020

Fashion brands are adopting upcycling, a way to transform offcuts of fabric into quality garments. Photo: AFP

Upcycling has been a buzzword in the fashion industry for several months now. Also known as creative reuse, this trend is greener and more ethical than secondhand clothing.

Wondering what it is all about? Here's what you should know about the technique that may soon be influencing your wardrobe.

Just like history, fashion eternally repeats itself, but designers and top brands are continually on the lookout for sustainable solutions to reduce their collections' impact on the planet.

Read more: Eco-conscious Malaysian brands are turning leftovers into fashionable treasure

Many ready-to-wear labels and store chains are developing this solution. Upcycling offers added value to garment waste and unused items and transforms them high-quality pieces.

This technique goes beyond traditional recycling because it entails a virtuous circle that allows the fashion industry to generate less waste, to produce less and therefore to limit its impact on the environment.



Several brands have already adopted upcycling, however, it generally applies to one part of their collections.

In September 2019, Marine Serre's Maree Noire (Oil Slick) collection comprised several upcycled pieces. To create the pieces, the French designer used leftover stocks of fabric and gave them a high-end second life.

Read more: Why sustainability has become fashion's biggest trend

Banana Moon also chose to transform its fabric offcuts into a swimwear collection for its Summer 2020 collection, while Gant recently presented a capsule collection of shirts upcycled from fabric leftovers from previous collections.

Upcycling also encompasses the use of vintage garments, which are either taken apart and re-stitched together in new ways – such as Los Angeles brand Re/Done does with jeans.

Either that, or they are taken as whole pieces and reworked into more contemporary designs featuring customisation, along the lines of Asos Reclaimed Vintage or reworked by the wearers themselves.

Upcycling is not only the buzzword to know in the realm of fashion right now, it also represents the future of the industry. – AFP Relaxnews

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