Upcycling is a process that has been gaining popularity in recent years. Upcycling is the process where an unused item is given a second go for its own purpose by giving it an entirely new function and value. While recycling takes materials and breaks them down to their most basic parts, upcycling takes an already used product and reuses the same for another purpose — with only a few tweaks involved. It is believed that upcycling is almost always better than the original item. Multiple international brands are already involved with upscaling old clothing and other source materials that have become outdated for use.
“Upcycling” as a word was invented by Reiner Pelz in 1994 while thinking of another term to coin for an upward use of recyclable and reusable items. While upcycling has been present throughout history in many forms, it is only in the recent century that upcycling was assigned a specific definition. When reusing and upgrading was fused into one word, upcycling became the ultimate term for it.
Millions of people are advocating for the upcycling of already used clothing fabrics and materials. Fashion production already contributes to 10% of man’s daily carbon footprint — with textiles mostly ending up in the dumpster annually. There are even studies regarding how most of the microplastics that are coming from fabrics end up in the oceans and contributing to the poisoning of our marine life.
What are the benefits of upcycling clothing? Is it fashionable, still, after being upcycled?
Upcycling is Cheap
Upcycling is one of the cheapest ways you can upgrade a certain piece of clothing to your liking. Second-hand items and clothes often come cheap as they are already at the end of their life cycles. You can even buy expensive brands which are secondhand from your local thrift store or outlet store. Some stores even allow you to purchase items by the dozen or by their weight. Any small pattern damage is salvageable. Purchase custom scarves online to get any pattern you want to imbibe or imprint on the piece of clothing you purchased. Any remedy for an already wonderful piece of clothing comes cheap. Even simple patches from loose fabrics will do.
Upcycling is Helpful to the Environment
Upcycling is obviously helpful to the environment. According to recent studies, clothes manufacturers are one of the groups responsible for the great dispersal of microplastics in our oceans. It became extremely disturbing to find fish harvested from the ocean with microplastics in their digestive tracks.
Every year, the fashion industry gets overlooked as one of the top contributors to pollution around the world. Because of the large margin of profits in clothing, businessmen are encouraged to produce more and more clothes each year. It is unfortunate that people can only wear certain clothing every day. The entire industry has become wasteful and unnecessarily extravagant.
Upcycling reuses fabrics and clothing that has become useless and gives life to it again. It gives new life to old items that will probably just end up in the dumpster. Brands such as Uniqlo and Zara are already ahead of this trend and asks their patrons to donate and return brand items already purposed for waste. They reuse the clothes and fabrics donated and reuse them to create better versions of their clothes.
Upcycling is Evolving and Flexible
Just as much as fashion grows and evolves every few years, upcycling also allows your clothes to grow and evolve. Upcycling your old items allow them to have the flexibility to change into whatever fashionable item it wants to be. Upcycled fashion trends are already gaining traction in the Generation Z age group. Most of the young ones are already fitting and reusing clothes already used by their older siblings and parents.
Thanks to the nostalgia culture, many of the clothing items from the 70s, 80s, and 90s are being upcycled to modern pieces. Some of these pieces are even more expensive than their source materials combined. Upcycling fashion items are not only sustainable. It also forces the material to evolve into an item that can be used in modern times.
Fashion is a very subjective industry that almost always evolves through time. Sadly, because of overproduction, the environment suffers. For us to save the environment while maintaining fashion-flexibility, we need to consider upcycling the old materials we once used as clothing. Thanks to upcycling, we get the pleasure of experiencing wearing new clothing while still helping in the fight against wastefulness