Your cart is empty!

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off


The Creative Designers Tackling Fashion Waste through Upcycling

1 Jun 2023

The Creative Designers Tackling Fashion Waste through Upcycling

The fashion world has turned to creative upcycling as the answer to the growing fast-fashion environmental issues.

We’re always on the look out for innovative brands and designers that are finding new solutions to making the fashion industry a more sustainable place to be. From old bed sheets to car tyres, we’ve pulled together a list of some of the most exciting names in the upcycling space for you to get to know.

While upcycling might have once been viewed as an embarrassing relic of post-war frugality, these creative leaders have well and truly turned that notion on its head. Turning unwanted fabrics and old clothes into some of the most coveted fashion pieces you can get your hands on and unique garments that are bound to be passed through generations.

Pre-loved, vintage and one-off pieces are increasingly taking their rightful place in our wardrobes, so it’s not surprising that upcycling is taking off in a big way in the fashion sphere.

With all the time spent at home during the pandemic, we got to give ourselves permission to slow down and work with what we had around us - leading to lots of people experimenting with DIY-ing their wardrobe.

These designers took the concept a step further, creating some of the catwalk’s hottest pieces out of things that would have once been thrown away. Upcycling has become a well-loved creative solution to the textile waste issue, and because by nature it doesn’t use anything new, it’s viewed as an even more sustainable option than bio and organic fabrics.

With the techniques of our ancestors being re-invented and respected, we can expect patchworking, painting and embroidery to be an integral part of the fashion revolution.

What is Upcycling?

“Upcycling” is the art of taking something that’s already been made, and transforming it into something new.

The term was coined by German engineer Reiner Pliz in 1994 to describe giving new value to things that were worth less because they were old or used. Ever since it’s grown in popularity in the interior and fashion worlds. When it comes to your wardrobe, upcycling could be anything from chopping the legs off of an old pair of jeans to make shorts to transforming an old bed sheet into a ball gown - do you get the idea?

Benefits of Upcycling and Recycling for the Planet

When we’re trying to build a sustainable wardrobe, it can be confusing to know why one choice is better than another, and where brands are using greenwashing to make us think we’re making good decisions.

In general, taking clothes that have already been made, and transforming them into new things is considered much more environmentally friendly than buying something new for the following reasons: 


Reduces energy and fossil fuel consumption

Did you know that it takes 2,700 litres of water to produce the cotton for one single t-shirt?  And to print that t-shirt with a design, or dye it a colour there are even more fuel-intensive processes involved. To put it in context, with over 28 billion kilograms of textiles dyed per year, that’s over 2 million Olympic sized swimming pools that could be filled by the water that’s wasted. 

Every time a designer or brand chooses to use the textiles already in existence, they skip this step, and tackle the problem. 

Natural resources are kept to a minimum

A new button might be added here and there, but usually upcycling means using resources that are already existing instead of raw materials.

That means the resources don’t need to be taken from nature again, so the strain on natural ecosystems is significantly reduced.

Supports Local Business

Small businesses that can’t afford to make things on a mass-level or compete with big brands, have often turned to upcycling to create exciting designs that can offer something unique.

When we shop with a local brand we’re supporting slow fashion, plus we get to make sure the person making our clothes is paid a fair wage and works in good conditions. Not to mention cutting the costs of shipping something from a factory halfway across the world!

Prevents Textiles Going to Landfill

Textiles in landfill can emit nasty pollutants into the air, water and land as they decompose. This means toxic greenhouse gases. 

With the amount of textiles and clothes that are being thrown away every year, every bit that can be given a new life and loved for a little bit longer is helping combat climate change.

So that means by adding upcycled clothes to your wardrobe instead of buying something new, you’re contributing to a more sustainable fashion industry, and saving clothes from landfill.

Combining upcycled clothes with vintage and pre-loved pieces in your wardrobe, you can have a wardrobe of dreams - without the environmental impact of nightmares. 

So now you know why upcycling is so good, let us introduce you to some of the brands making it their own, and pushing the boundaries of what can be transformed into something new.

E.L.V. Denim 

The luxury British denim brand making post-consumer waste cool.

E.L.V. Denim were founded by cooler than cool Anna Foster, who creates signature spliced jeans from old unwanted pairs. Each pair is made to measure, meaning no unwanted stock lying around, and each pair is uniquely created for the wearer’s measurements. From the start her goals were big - Anna is planning to take on all post-consumer waste denim and transform it - saving it from landfill.

We loved her ethos so much that we had to get involved. You can donate your old, worn out jeans via our takeback scheme and you’ll get £40 off of a new pair from E.L.V. as a thank you.

Their designs are laid-back and cool, genderless and size-inclusive, and created with all ages in mind. The brand takes tired old jeans and patches them together to make unique new styles, tackling one of the most water-intensive fabrics in fashion.

They’ve also been experimenting with using upcycled luxury hotel textiles and carefully paired pre-loved shirts for their easy-going one of a kind designs.

Check out their instagram: here

Freya Simonne

The feminine upcycler transforming vintage quilts into dreamy dresses.

Named after her stylish grandmother, designer Freya pays homage to the delicate florals of yesteryear with one-off garments made exclusively from vintage textiles. 

She started upcycling in lockdown to make herself some special pieces, and the brand naturally began to grow as people fell in love with her one-off whimsical summer dresses. After a decade in the fashion industry, she knew first-hand the waste that was produced, and founded her label with the principle of only using what already exists.

Check out her instagram: here


The award-winning designer using her voice to demand change.

Since 2018, Priya Ahluwalia’s eponymous label has been a fast favourite in the fashion industry. Inspired by her Indian-Nigerian heritage and London roots, the brand explores the potential of vintage and surplus clothing using patchworking techniques, and manages to embody her effortless cool along the way.

Winning the “Leader of Change” award at the Fashion Awards three years in a row, it’s safe to say her sustainable efforts with the brand have definitely not gone unnoticed by the industry.

Check out their instagram: here

Chopova Lowena 

The Central St. Martins design duo rebranding upcycling as the hottest luxury around.

If you’ve not heard of this design duo, you’ll most likely have seen their signature skirts around - they’ve been worn by everyone from Dua Lipa to Madonna in the past year. 

From the very beginning, they approached making collections with sustainability and craft as the most important points, using Bulgarian heritage fabrics mixed with eighties rock climbing gear for a truly unique product - and we can’t get enough.

Using recycled textiles like pillowcases and aprons, hiring female artisans with a living wage and creating a community dedicated to rejuvenating cultural heritage, the duo have made slow, upcycled fashion the most coveted luxury around.

Check out their instagram: here

Lydia Bolton

The fun-loving London designer making summer staples from fashion industry waste.

Lydia Bolton’s bright patchwork cardigans seem to fly off her website every time she drops a batch.  Her innovative approach to upcycling has captured the attention of renowned brands such as Nike, Ocean Bottle, and Unilever, who have eagerly sought her expertise in running upcycling workshops.

Lydia manages to juggle regular workshops and talks to educate her dedicated community alongside running her slow fashion label, and working with brands to create sustainable content - she’s the definition of a sustainable multi-hyphenate, doing everything she can to advocate for change.

Her fun, brightly coloured designs are a true testament to her playful, imaginative spirit. Utilising a combination of industry waste, deadstock fabrics and thrifted homewares, they exude a sense of chilled out fun. From whimsical ginghams to vintage motifs, Lydia’s pieces embody a refreshing fusion of sustainability and individuality.

Check out her instagram: here

3 Women Co.

The Cali duo upcycling rice sacks into unique unisex designs.

Globally, rice is a staple in many of our households, and designers  Crystal Lee Early and Natalie Mumford fell in love with the prints and patterns of shipping sacks, and set about transforming them into jackets for themselves to wear - which were met with an outpouring of compliments and requests to buy them.

Driven by their shared passion and entrepreneurial spirit, the duo launched their brand, 3 Women Co., and have since extended their creative repertoire to include a nostalgic range of unisex pieces - all crafted from rice, flour and feed sacks.

They commit to using every scrap of fabric, and come up with solutions for their waste, using smaller scraps as patches to upcycle clothes. 

Check out their instagram: here


The upcyclers heralding “future vintage over future garbage.” 

Picnic create fun beachwear and accessories from vintage towels. The quirky patterns are patched together, resulting in their own personal brand of happy nostalgia. 

Everything the brand produces is made from vintage and deadstock material, and they pay a living wage to the artisans that make their clothes. They are also zero-waste advocates, with one of their most popular products being the reusable face pads made from towelling scraps. 

Making products that are functional, zero waste and reusable - what can we say - sounds good to us. 

Check out their instagram: here


The French designer dressing the celebs in recycled car seats.

From Rosalίa to Alexa Chung, everyone seems desperate to get their hands on the larger than life upcycled couture from the underground french label. 

With a CV peppered with the biggest names in  the fashion industry, designer Sebastian A. de Ruffray wanted to push the boundaries of what and how upcycling is used in fashion.

He experiments with silk scarves and antique wedding dresses in his more conventional pieces, but has created even more wow moments by transforming some objects that are a little less conventional. From car seats to mattresses, ticket stubs chainmail, no material is off limits when it comes to his creations.

In fact, one of his very first runway items was actually concocted out of a mattress he found outside his Paris apartment at 4am. Taking something that would have been thrown away, and applying luxury techniques and craftsmanship that would usually be reserved for only the finest fabric means that upcycling is getting the star treatment it deserves.

Check out their instagram: here

Collina Strada

The New York brand using deadstock as a vehicle for social change

Using their platform to raise awareness for social issues like equality and global warming, the brand eschews trend in lieu of their more important goals.

From bails of t-shirts from the Kantamanto market in Ghana from the OR Foundation, single use tshirts that would otherwise be thrown away, cut up and patched together in in 2020, to collaborating in 2021 with the Real Real to give vintage pieces a new life as chunky knitwear and floral flares.

The brand enlists a diverse range of models of all ages, shapes and sizes, they champion visibility and make their playful designs feel accessible for all.

Their creative garments embrace artisanal processes like hand dyeing, patchwork and embroidery, combined with some much-needed humour in a space that can end up feeling a little bit too serious.

Check out their instagram: here


All of our favourite upcycling designers have unique takes on tackling the industry’s waste problem, but they all have one important thing in common:

Creating garments that are designed to be kept and treasured for years to come - not chucked in landfill.

These designers are definitely testament to the notion that creativity is born from restraint, and we’re excited to see what they come up with next.

If you love upcycled clothes, but aren’t sure if they’re for you, why not check out our pre-loved options to make your wardrobe more sustainable.

Sign up to Reskinned to find out more about what we do and be the first to find out when drops are happening from the brands you love.

©Reskinned 2023