Repair, reuse, recreate – the benefits of upcycling your clothes

20th December 2021
The fast fashion that we consume is exactly that –clothing made as quickly as possible, out of cheap fabrics, in mass quantity with aggressive marketing campaigns to make us buy more than we need. This strategy pays little regards to the waste of natural resources, pollutants from the manufacturing process and the injustices to the garment workers. The result of this over consumption model is a staggering amount of waste. 180 billion tons of clothing goes to landfill every year filling waste sites decades sooner than anticipated. We are in fact, drowning in our textile waste. The only way to slow down this critical problem is to create new items from textile waste such as deadstock (garments unsold because of flaws, damage or outdated), reclaimed materials (the fashion industries’ leftovers such as offcuts from manufacturing processes or oversupply of fabric), and post-consumer waste (items that have been purchased, worn, and discarded). This is called upcycling. Unlike recycling where new materials are made from waste materials, upcycling is simply reusing existing materials and therefore does not require chemical processes or the use of raw material and polluting energy resources. Upcycling can be practiced in many forms such as:
  • Repair – extending the life of an existing garment
  • Reuse – using what we already have and reducing the number of new garments or components consumed
  • Refurbish – updating an old garment
  • Recreate – refashioning existing unwanted items into something new.
upcycling Despite its challenges upcycling is becoming the “new normal” and here are the reasons we should practice it:

Better for the environment

The use of chemicals, fossil fuels for energy or excessive water is not required for production.


Buying a garment that is made from better materials to suit your style, size and social needs, has more value and is less likely to be discarded or replaced by new items.

Upcycled items are unique

Each item tells a story about its maker, its wearer and its history. This gives upcycled clothing a value you will not find in disposable fast fashion brands.

Supports local production

Supports local designers who in turn make use of local skills and craft traditions.

Creativity is good for the soul

Studies show that engaging in creative activities harnesses and amplifies positive feelings about oneself and is a good activity to practice if you have mental health issues. Sustainable or circular fashion is no longer just an option, it has become a must. Luxury fashion brands Valentino, Gucci, Miu Miu amongst others are picking up on this zero waste/upcycling ethos, making upcycling the biggest fashion trend of 2021 according to Vogue contributor Emily Chan (23rd November 2020). Why not join the Fashion Revolution and show your resistance to toxic fast fashion? Start your own upcycling journey with these simple UPCYCLE practices you can adopt
  • Salvage components for reuse before you discard an item of clothing – buttons, zips, lacework
  • Support local upcycle designers
  • Repair and take care of the clothes you already have.
  • Dye clothing to give it a fresh look or to cover stains you cannot remove.
  • Embellish an item to update it by adding some personalized embroidery, textile paint or patches.
  • Modify a garment by cropping, combining with another or deconstructing it.
Check out the holiday guide for an eco-friendly Christmas prepared by Wasteserv here.

Article by Tonya Lehtinen, Vogue Xchange


Harvey J., The Rise Of Deadstock Dressing: Designers Approach Upcycling Clothes The Chic Way, Giving unsold clothes and cast-off fabrics new life, 2021, https://www.elle.com/uk/fashion/trends/a36282440/upcycling-clothes/ [Accessed 14 December 2021]

Chan E., Upcycling Is The Biggest Trend In Fashion Right Now, 2020, https://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/article/upcycling-trend-ss21 [Accessed 14 December 2021]


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