It’s time for upcycled fashion to ascend to the throne

… of couture, RTW and mainstream clothiers.

Sustainability right now is hot! Everywhere you look you see sustainable, slow fashion, who made my clothes. A more educated consumer, a more thoughtful and socially responsible consumer has taken over the driving of market trends and consumer demand for clothes that just make us feel good about where they came from.

Remember the binge diet of fast fashion? I know some of us are still have a hanger-over from a gluttonous overindulgence that has resulted in a pile of cheap fabric in our closets. The mother of all messes that looms over us every time we get dressed in the morning. I too bear the shame of buying things I no longer wear, or have never worn, except all mine come from thrift stores.

We now have many reprocessed fabric, repurposed upcycled, recycled and thrifted options. But until we encourage today’s up and coming fashion designers that sustainable is a viable career path, a complete and separate fashion industry that leads to the runways of Paris, Milan, Tokyo and Brazil, sustainable design is relegated to the shadows. Caught between hippie bohemian patchwork and strange stretches to capitalize on just the slightest inference of sustainability. Therefore taking advantage of consumers without true sustainable merit. Please, please fashion industry relieve my agony every time I see t-shirt totes and denim bags take the spotlight and cloud the general public’s perception of what upcycled mean. Fashion lovers, don’t we want higher aspirations for modern fashion, something that looks good and IS good?

Here is what I envision:

Upcycled Fashion Lines

I love you, I love you, I love you; my patchwork brothers and sisters. I love you skirt made from ties that is to heavy to possibly wear but is brought up every time I try to explain that I am a sustainable fashion designer. Dear fashion industry, upcycled doesn’t have to look upcycled. It can be repurposed, reworked, redesigned to look like an entirely  different….NEW garment!!! Ta-da! If you use old clothes (Maybe ones that didn’t sell) that were made from new fabric then its new. Period. 

Oh, and the possibilities for collaboration are endless. New lines comprised of old clothes from big names that didn’t sell. I designed an entire prototype line that mashed up Brooks Brothers and Harley Davidson. It is called high society biker. And yeah, someone will probably steal my idea but I cannot in good conscience watch everyone stumble around in the sustainable fashion darkness anymore and have the rest of us say, nope, that’s not it, nope not even close. Oh! don’t hurt yourself! careful there. 

Upcyled Design School

Teach upcyled design to upcycled designers. Yes, I understand that there is a technique and a craft to designing a garment with patterns and various stitchery. A tailoring craft that should be left untouched. But there should also be instruction for how to take apart a garment, use the pieces that are already cut and reconstruct them into a new sellable garment, like a cute dress, because 10,000 units of a bold patterned men’s shirt did not sell and you sure can’t throw them in the landfill anymore!

In fact, I hope to see an old clothes garment district where designers would shop already constructed garments like they shop bolts of fabric. Yes, saving them from the landfill and creating new and exciting things. Get it? See what I’m seeing?

Upcycled Social Enterprise

There are products to be made from discarded textiles. A sustainable social enterprise movement that could empower non profits, create jobs and make dignified work for those who desperately need it. I personally have created 100’s of designs from museum exhibited couture all the way to small goods for local marketplaces. 

I have to unburden myself, something that has been bothering for a very long time. To protect the innocent I will keep this general as to not hurt any delicate feelings. I used to live in a place that loved t-shirt totes. This place went crazy for someone who came up with this design and gave them many, many accolades for this idea. Try going to the grocery store with a t-shirt tote. Place one cantaloupe and two canned goods in this tote. Watch tote stretch all the way to the ground and break your wrist. Buy tote constructed of canvas or plastic that has long handles to better distribute the weight. Moral of this story-not all upcycled things are good just because they are upcycled alone. Laws of physics, ergonomics, aesthetics of design and just good common sense still apply. Whew, I feel so much better!

Upcycled Couture

I know I can never achieve full couture status in the States and I may never be a couturier in Paris. However, as more sustainable, more upcycled designers join me, I hope to one day see the upcycled industry wear the crown and rise to sovereignty it richly deserves in the fashion industry.

Want more sustainable fashion? Contact me through this website or email me at Talk is cheap, well in this case, free. I love chatting about this! Follow me on Instagram @rawmaterialsbymelissa for a series of high fashion sustainability couture and inspiring ideas.

No fashion designers were injured for the making of this blog post.

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