Upcycling is the process of taking by-products, waste or unwanted materials and turning them into new items. In the fashion world, a growing crop of waste-conscious designers are using leftover fabrics and original pieces no longer fit for wear to create unique, often incredibly cool, garments. We’ve seen wool blankets become winter jackets, designer men’s suits converted into chic refitted sets and hotel towels transformed into tailored shorts.
What excites us most about the upcycling movement is that it shows exactly how creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness can help solve fashion’s biggest problems. If you’re keen to add a repurposed piece to your wardrobe, check out our favourite upcyclers below.
If your style is best summed up as sporty, outdoorsy or urban, then you’ll love Frankie Collective Vintage, a preloved clothing platform specialising in reworked streetwear pieces. The collections are inspired by 90s staples and current vintage trends, fused to push the boundaries of traditional fashion. While we of course admire Frankie Collective’s commitment to the environment (it saves over 29,000 kilos of clothing from landfill every year), we also love its originality. Seriously, look at this bustier tank upcycled from a North Face sweater, or this strappy summer dress made from an old Carhartt shirt. Genius.
Female and POC owned Sami Miro Vintage focuses on limited-run collections made entirely from upcycled and vintage fabrics. Founded by influencer and designer Sami Miró in 2016, the brand has made a huge name for itself in the last five years, scoring features in Vogue, CFDA, Forbes, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle. It even walked a 30-piece collaboration with Heron Preston on the SS 2020 Paris runway. Style-wise, there’s a lot of variety to be found here. Reworked sweatpants and hoodies; asymmetrical mesh tees, pants and dresses; and redone denim. The brand’s supply chain also starts and ends in Los Angeles, drastically lowering its carbon footprint.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s recent cover story shoot for The Hollywood Reporter is an absolute vibe – even more so when you realise the entire look is upcycled. The embroidered tailored suit and shirt were both designed by fellow Brit Bethany Williams, a fashion designer with a reputation for turning waste fabrics into lively, collaged garments. We’ve spent a lot of time injecting joy into our day via Williams’s colourful Instagram, and, to be honest we’re not sure we’ll ever stop refreshing our feeds. Trust us, you need this content.
The team behind multifaceted upcycling system bettter “ruthlessly search the world for old gems and turn them into new spectacular garments”. Each piece comes with a “passport” that contains detailed information on its origins, and each purchase gives you access to a whole set of garments that can be styled in different ways. We’ve spent a lot of time on its page shortlisting future office looks, like the CHARLIE or RAMPLING suit (with a seriously chic open back), and we’re currently obsessing over one of its latest drops: SUMMER NEVER ENDS. Featuring pastel-coloured striped bowling shirts with matching tailored shorts upcycled from Soviet towels, it looks like casual Fridays are also covered.
Born from a desire to reimagine, reanimate and mend what already exists, Rentrayage brings old clothes, vintage fabrics and dead stock back to life. Its collections are made for style icons who pride themselves on dressing in one-of-a-kind pieces. Think T-shirts with unexpected frills, bold pattern clashes and scallop collars. Garments are a little bit fair maiden and cottagecore, but with a modern luxury twist…and, well, we’re into it.
Drawing inspiration from their British and French backgrounds, founders Imogen Wright and Vincent Le Chapelain launched an upcycled, responsible fashion label to “explore the notion of the familiar within the European wardrobe”. Whether that means a lot or absolutely nothing to you, Wright Le Chapelain has given us endless inspiration (and envy) with its stunning seasonal collections. A few favourites include these unisex baggy chinos, this denim dress, and that three-piece power suit. Oh and essentially this entire upcycled look from the Collection 03.
Leftover fabrics don’t get a lot of love. They’re generally thrown in the bin, left to waste away in landfill. Umlaut Paris wanted no part in that process, which is why, rather than sourcing fabrics from manufacturers, it finds producers offering end-of-line fabrics. If that isn’t a big enough brag, all the clothes in its capsule collections are handmade in Paris. The Amaya dress, la chemise solar nacre shirt and Dorin coat are definitely on our wish list for a future RIISE photo shoot in our favourite French city.
Shop Toni founder and designer Adrian has previously worked for brands like H&M, Weekday and Calvin Klein. When a friend asked him to help her make a suit for an event – and suggested crafting it out of an old blanket – the idea for an upcycling business was born. Shop Toni sells a whole range of unique garments, each made to order, from items collected in second-hand shops. There are hats made out of towels, jackets out of wool blankets and even shirts from old embroidered tablecloths. If there’s one person we’d love to go op-shopping with, it would have to be Adrian.