Don't throw away broken umbrellas – turn them into fashion items!


The R-Coat brand's very first creation, made from umbrellas otherwise destined for the trash. Photo composite: AFP

What can we do to limit the impact of waste on the planet? This is the question currently being asked by many in the fashion industry, as the sector tries to find ways to reduce its environmental footprint.

Some have already managed to achieve this by successfully transforming waste into raw materials.

Take the brand R-Coat, for example, which turns broken umbrellas into jackets and accessories in an unlikely trash transformation.

Read more: Footwear brand creates shoes partially made from Paris transport seats

A simple gust of wind can be enough to turn an umbrella inside out and sometimes into oblivion. Next stop, the trash can. It's a classic scenario that we should really try to avoid at a time when everyone is trying – at their own level – to limit waste.

In addition to sorting and recycling, which have long since become common practice, it is now possible to collect all kinds of waste to give it a new life, sometimes in totally unexpected ways.

Based in Portugal, the community-based fashion brand R-Coat has made circularity part of its ethos.

"We mimic natural cycles by upcycling discarded materials and having circularity at the base of all our choices," say the two founders, Anna and Yasmin, on the brand's official website.

One is Italian, the other Brazilian, but it is in Portugal that the pair have set down their suitcases and decided to create a brand that transforms broken umbrellas into jackets and fashion accessories. What could be more intriguing?

R-Coat's story began in 2018, under the leadership of its founder Anna, who then defined herself as a zero waste influencer.

The young woman would pick up broken umbrellas in the street to limit their impact on the environment, then had the idea of turning them into clothes using a simple sewing machine.

With the help of tutorials, a first jacket came about. After partnering with Yasmin a year later, the pair decided to take the start-up to the next level, and make R-Coat a community-based fashion brand focused on innovation, creativity and sustainability.

The brand now relies on an army of "umbrella heroes" – meaning you and me – to collect broken products via collection points or by sending them in directly. The fabric part is then used to create new clothes.

These are embellished with fabric scraps recovered from Portuguese textile factories, recycled polyester labels, and partially recycled metal buttons. All are handmade in Portugal by seamstresses.

Read more: Interest in pre-loved fashion is not waning, even Balenciaga is on board

As you can see, the brand's founders have thought of everything.

So far, the R-Coat brand offers sweatshirts, jackets, shorts and bucket hats for men and women, all made from broken umbrellas, as well as washing bags designed to prevent microplastics from getting into waterways during washing machine cycles.

All of this is available online, as well as on the Revibe platform, which brings together a host of designers working in upcycled fashion.

More than 2,000 broken umbrellas have already been recycled by the brand, and thus kept out of landfill. – AFP Relaxnews

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