Upcycling: Re-using Discarded Fabric for Lasting, Beautiful Clothes
- Apr 29, 2019
- Delphine Gennisson
- 0 Comment(s)
The fashion industry is awash in bad habits, and it’s time for a change.
The $3 trillion apparel market is one of the largest polluters in the world, second to the oil industry. And, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and National Public Radio, it dumps 15.1 tons of textile waste into landfills each year.
Yet, making that clothing is equally taxing on our planet: it takes 2,000 gallons of water just to grow the cotton for a pair of jeans. And it takes about 713 gallons of water just to grow enough cotton for a regular t-shirt.
Plus, the fashion industry’s labor is notorious for human rights abuses. Often in third-world countries, employees suffer deplorable conditions and poor pay, long hours and unfair treatment. Sixteen-hour days for some of them. Unsafe buildings for others. Just look at the 2013 factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed 1,134 people.
My company, Upparel, is a different kind of fashion company.
We love stylish clothes, but we care intensely about the environment and people. Seeing the industry’s record makes my stomach turns. So when I found out about “upcycling” and a great factory in India that really took care of its tailors, I was thrilled.
I started Upparel based on that system of upcycling.
What does this mean exactly?
It means we create fashion collections using fabrics that are no longer wanted by other fashion companies. It involves re-using materials and fabrics that otherwise would go to the landfill. Perhaps those fashion houses ordered too much for the season. Perhaps the colors didn’t hit the mark or were slightly off. Or maybe, the fabric simply wasn’t “in season” anymore.
With upcycling, we’re picking up where fast fashion leaves a giant ugly hole.
“Fast fashion” is just that: fast, trendy, fleeting, driven to push people to buy the latest look with cheap prices. That means discarded clothes, chemicals, water, and miles of unwanted extra fabric.
I believe that fashion can be lasting, and we’re driven to produce clothing that’s durable and can be passed on to multiple wearers.
Upcycling is the key to making this happen. We grab great fabric before it hits the landfill so it gets a second chance. We source it on what we call the “deadstock market.” By avoiding new fabric production, we’re saving water and eliminating the use of new chemicals.
Add to that, our partnership with The Tailoring Centre, nestled in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, reaffirms our belief that we can not only take care of the environment but the people doing the hard work in the fashion industry. The talented tailors at the Tailoring Centre are treated right with safe working conditions, better pay, healthcare, childcare and a voice about their work environment.
There is nothing more rewarding for us than using existing fabrics, being part of the solution and reintroducing it in our life with beautiful designs. Together, with education, your purchases and upcycling can drive change in the world to take care of people, the planet without compromising style.
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