The Upcycling Movement: Transforming Discarded Items Into Sustainable Products

The Upcycling Movement: Transforming Discarded Items Into Sustainable Products


October 12, 2020

In light of the environmental waste that fast fashion generates (think “floating islands of microfiber pollution in the sea”), the concept of “upcycling” or revamping discarded items such as second-hand or dead sock clothing into haute couture, is the latest sustainable way forward. By upcycling, you are upping the value of the original product instead of downcycling, and, according to The Upcycle Movement's founder Lynn Haughton, “upcycling continues the life of the object and keeps it out of landfills.”

That’s why, REFASH!

A post shared by REFASH | Upcycled Fashion (@refash_) on

By combining sustainability and cultural fashion, the following 5 upcycle brands are transforming what we consider as waste into runway-worthy fashion:

1) Doodlage

Doodlage is a zero-waste brand that makes its limited-edition collections out of consumer and factory waste. All elements of production and distribution keep sustainability in mind; converting material scraps into clothing, while waste made during production is converted into accessories and their packaging is made using in-house paper.

This concept of upcycling, according to Kriti Tula, who is Doodlage's co-founder, “was a deeply rooted tradition in India. Every garment was cherished and it was a good time for earth.” The clothes exude comfort and are made of light, breathable material, and their accessories, from purses and journals to masks and laptop sleeves, have very boho-chic designs.

2) Reformation

Reformation's clothing and products look very fast-fashion-esque, but behind-the-scenes, Reformation is a sustainable haven. They follow a water-neutral policy by using less water-intensive fabrics (instead of Cotton which requires almost 20,000 gallons of water to make a tee-shirt) and by partnering with Bonneville Environmental Foundation, they are leasing water or incentivizing farmers to use only the water they need to use, rather than their full quota. They are very up-front in providing details about their factory policies, and their 'green standard' for production. A quick look at their 2019-2023 Sustainability Framework indicates their focus on better materials, and are investing in vegan/traceable leather sourcing, regenerative and organic cotton supplies, and eliminating sourcing from 'endangered species habitats and forests.'

How whimsical.

A post shared by Reformation (@reformation) on

3) Refash

Refash calls itself the “World's First Platform for Upcycled Fashion,” since it is dedicated exclusively to upcycled products, such as clothing, jewelry, bags, and giftable items. The website features limited edition items and is “vocal for local” as it supports homegrown brands with ethical practices over the large industrial, supply chain fashion brands.

To 'refash” an item is to upcycle it into a “contemporary, useful, and creative product.” With its belief in conscious consumption and in a circular economy which promotes “reduce, reuse and recycle,” Refash also does pop up events where attendees can workshop ideas and create kimonos, scrunchies, etcetera, out of old fabrics.

4) ASOS Reclaimed Vintage

ASOS, the U.K. online shopping brand, has a 'Reclaimed Vintage' section which revives vintage clothing and remodels them into classic fashion inspirations, from Polo shirts to classic hoops and boyfriend tees, ASOS upcycles out-of-season collections from famous brands, that are usually dumped, into fresh swag. With affordable prices, these are limited items that are worth checking out, even if its origins are dubious.

5) Lota

LOTA's iconic patchwork shirts (not to mention its CGI models) are touted to be an “exploration into the intersection of sustainability, fashion, and technology” as they are made of 100% fabric waste. Since this is a niche fashion brand, each shirt is a limited edition print and is made to be long-lasting, in order to ensure that their clothes do not end up in landfills anytime soon.

Nehaa Bimal
20k+ pageviews

Writer since May, 2020 Β· 16 published articles

Nehaa Bimal is currently pursuing a double major in Journalism & Humanities. She launched the #TTMVoicesonClimateChange initiative for The Teen Magazine, has conducted interviews with famous entrepreneurs, and is a regular contributor to The Charlatan and Her Campus. She was also Entertainment editor and Features co-editor or her high school newspaper The Surveyor. A slam poet and singer, Nehaa likes to add a dramatic flair to everything she writes/performs.