THEY appear as colourful handicrafts from afar, but upon closer inspection, one realises that these are foldable shopping bags made from old baju kurung.
Bags and pouches of varying shapes, duvet covers and even pet beds are just some of the products made by Upcycle4Better (U4B), using unwanted or old clothing and fabrics.
U4B is a community-driven fashion brand that aims to bridge the gap between sustainability and fashion.
The company works on creating awareness of sustainability efforts in fashion, to keep unwanted fabrics out of landfills.
“A lot of people lost jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic and we wanted to provide constant and consistent work to our pool of seamstresses,” said U4B business development and marketing head Andrew Jackson.
“We recruited these people from the Klang Valley, Melaka and Johor by word of mouth.
“The seamstresses are given projects based on their skills but we also provide an opportunity for them to work on more complicated sewing projects,” he said.
The company presently has over 30 products made from batik, denim, baju kurung, curtains and tea towels.
For each U4B product sold, Jackson said a portion would go to the seamstresses, another to cover logistics and the remainder to the partner who hosted the fabric collection bin.
U4B works in partnership with Life Line Clothing Malaysia (LLCM), which handles the logistics and collection of unwanted and unused clothing and fabrics through its collection bins placed around Malaysia, as well as Australian Textiles Manufacturing Malaysia (ATMM) which processes and sorts the items into over 500 categories at its ISO-certified factory in Port Klang, Selangor.
“Some of our present clients are Top Glove, Ikea and Panasonic.
“The products U4B creates for them are given to their employees (rather than sold to the public),” said Jackson.
“For Top Glove, we placed a textile collection bin outside its headquarters in Setia Alam.
“The absorbent materials from the old clothing and fabrics were repurposed into cleaning cloths.
“These cloths were bought by Top Glove to be used at its factories and for distribution to local communities like mosques and non-profit groups.”
Meanwhile, Ikea donated over 2,000 uniforms from its four stores in Malaysia. These were turned into utensil pouches, multifunctional pouches and shoppings bags that were bought by Ikea to be distributed to its staff.
“We hope to expand our efforts of repurposing old uniforms into creative new products at other Ikea stores in South-East Asia.”
He said U4B had also inked an agreement with Taylor’s University to include sustainable fashion in its Fashion Design programme.
“We want to create awareness of fashion and sustainability among people who will shape the fashion industry in the future.
“We have already worked on projects with these students, such as having a fashion show and creating gowns for a pageant,” said Jackson, who was speaking at the Sustainability in Fashion Exhibition held as part of Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week 2022.
The event at Fahrenheit 88 mall in Bukit Bintang was aimed at creating awareness of the harmful impacts of textile waste, encouraging consumers to make positive changes in their fashion choices and educating designers on sustainable fashion practices.
A selection of U4B’s upcycled products are available for sale at Zero Waste Earth Store in Eco Ardence, Shah Alam, Selangor (in-store and online).