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The Exclusivity of Upcycled Fashion

I don’t like the word “upcycle,” it’s a word mismatched to its definition. Upcycle could be a flying bicycle, the rave setting on your clothes dryer, or that one majestic week a month when you’re not pre-period, mid-period, or post-period and everything seems pretty, pretty good. What “upcycled fashion” doesn’t conjure is what it is: a wonderful feat of design and your rarest fashion item. 

Upcycled fashion is the real life equivalent of spinning straw into gold. Designers transform discarded materials like fabric, trimmings, and hardware into beautiful, one-of-a-kind garments or accessories. This method of design is responsive to existing materials, shaping what exists into what could be. With the conventional design process, a product is imagined (usually sketched or rendered), and the necessary materials are sourced or made to bring the vision to life, and mass produced for public consumption. Upcycled pieces are covetable because not only are they one-of-a kind, exclusive pieces, the inherent ideology of the design eschews virgin materials and keeps refuse out of landfill.

I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me some time (probably because of the misleading, unsexy name) to embrace upcycled fashion as “cool,” but in recent years a crop of talented designers have converted me into a bonafide upcycled fashion fangirl. 

Here are five upcycled designers to follow on Instagram today:

 

Retrayage

Rentrayage (the french word for mending or darning) is the new label founded by Suno designer, Erin Beatty. Each collection is created entirely from vintage and secondhand clothing, from army surplus to vintage YSL, in an aesthetic that elegantly straddles utilitarian and romantic design.   

 

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The Series

A New York-based brand founded by Ella Wiznia that encourages radical inclusion, at The Series online store you can find seasonless, non gender specific, one of a kind, hand-made denim, tanks, puffer jackets, and dresses constructed from vintage, renewed, and reworked fabrics. I particularly love the custom denim and the crocheted daisy tank tops that we featured in our shoot with actress Ashleigh Cummings. 

 

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BaYou with Love

Actress, environmentalist, and musician Nikki Reed founded “her second baby,” jewelry brand BaYou with Love in LA in 2016. A long time advocate of sustainable fashion, Reed jumped at the chance to upcycle the gold from discarded DELL motherboards into ethical, fine jewelry. 

 

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Chopova Lowena

Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena founded their label, Chopova Lowena in London in 2017 after they met at Saint Martins and “bonded over a love of skirts.” Their designs, inspired by traditional Bulgarian dress, are made by hand from  existing fabrics—mostly repurposed, vintage, and deadstock fabrics sourced from Bulgaria. They’re label is stocked in luxury boutiques like Brown’s in London. 

 

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Zero Waste Daniel

Zero-waste designer, Daniel Silverstein first garnered attention after appearing on the NBC reality show, FASHION STAR in 2013 which led to supporters like Amber Valetta and Jennifer Hudson wearing his zero-waste couture on the red carpet. From there, Silverstein launched his Brooklyn based brand. Zero Waste Daniel, a line of non gender specific basics with the purpose of diverting pre-consumer waste from landfill. 

 

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Cover Photo: The Series

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