Upcycling – Tips and Tricks


As mentioned in our previous article, here at IFDC we are learning more about how our purchases can impact more than just the space in our wardrobe. We want to learn about how we can help combat the effect the fashion industry has on our climate.

This week, we were shocked when we saw the figure that on average we each throw away 37kg of clothing each year (Recycling Council). The result is that every second the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is sent to landfill or burned, only 15% is recycled (Ellen McCarther Foundation). Our ‘make, use, dispose’ approach of how we treat our clothing is clogging our landfills as the synthetic fibres that are used to make our clothes, such as polyester and plastic, are non-biodegradable. These materials can take up to 200 years to decompose (Sustain Your Style). In addition, incinerating the clothes releases plastic microfibers which rises the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere (Publications Parliament).

So, how can we help? The constant saturation of newness means we no longer repair our clothes, instead we throw away ones which are still wearable to make room for the latest trend. Therefore, the first step to combat the amount of clothing mindlessly dumped in landfills it to upcycle clothes we have rather than purchasing new ones. Upcycling is the concept of refurbishing our existing clothes or acquiring outfits that others have refurbished using recycled materials. Upcycling allows us to take something that might look tattered and worn to become brand new again with the help of fresh stitching, fixed buttons or zippers or embellishing the item. Since upcycling is about extending the life of clothing, if you were to upcycle your clothes rather than purchase new ones for just nine months it could reduce your carbon waste and water footprints by around 20–30% (Wrap, 2018). Meaning you can walk in your new piece feeling proud that you’ve not only designed your own outfit, but reduced the amount of pollution that the textile industry causes.

Many designers have started to look into the practice of upcycling for their upcoming collections and the results are remarkable. For example, vintage brand, Re/Done, repurpose vintage pieces whilst ensuring they keep the original stitching to preserve the character and stories that were in the original piece but styling it to have a modern fit. In addition, vegan brand, Matt and Nat, go beyond using recycled fabric by also making their bags from recycled bottles, and have recently began experimenting with recycled bicycle tyres.

Then there’s consumers who take matters into their own hands and upcycle their own items. If you think you’re one of these creative types, let us help inspire you with your next upcycling project. Here we’d like to share with you our favourite upcycling tips and tricks below.

Tips and Tricks

Make it as good as new

A simple first step is to mend the item, as a small hole or a missing button can easily be fixed. In addition, when fixing the item, you could make it different from what it was before by altering the design to be unique to you. For example, the fashion world has been inspired by the feeling of madness and disarray that surrounds us at the moment by having clashing prints hit the catwalks. And so, when you’re patching up and upcycling an old shirt or jacket, consider sewing it up with a clashing print or colour. Saving it from landfill as well as making your wardrobe match the latest trends.

Embellish, embroider and edit

Sometimes we feel as if we are bored with what we find in our wardrobe even though it is new from last season. Instead of trying to fit more clothes into your wardrobe, we suggest that you upcycle your outfits by embellishing and editing what you already have – giving it a new and interesting twist. Also, look at what trends you currently love and edit your wardrobe to match. For example, as the weather gets colder, layers and ruffles have begun to appear in all stores, so why not add your own to your current clothes?

Mistakes can make it better

Did something go wrong and your shirt is now missing an arm? Don’t let your fabric go to waste and instead think of other ways you could use it. You could use the material to add to another piece or make it into something entirely new, like a phone holder or a decoration. Anything can be made into something, and nothing needs to be wasted.

The aim of upcycling is that you are saving the amount of clothes wastefully sent to landfills. You don’t have to become an expert straight away – you can start with simply fixing a broken button to then upcycling your clothes until they are unrecognisable when you become more confident with it.

Share your upcycling tips with us on our instagram, ifdc_org, and tag us in your own creations!

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