Reuse & Upcycle:
Local And Beyond

Upcycling, the remaking or repurposing of garments to create a product of higher quality or value than its original, has been one of the past decade’s popular but time-consuming and costly way-outs for discarded products in the fashion industry. With the culture of fast fashion continuing to dominate, over 3.5 billion pairs of jeans are produced worldwide every year against a world population of almost 8 billion.

Overproduction results in leftover stock that is usually sent to incineration or left to decompose in landfills. To reduce the pressure on the earth, various companies have taken on different strategies in dealing with deadstock jeans and fabrics, for instance, by repurposing these materials into something new and wearable, or altering the cuttings of deadstock jeans into new fits.

Image Courtesy: Unsplash
Hong Kong
Turning Inventory of Calvin Klein Jeans Into a New Capsule Collection

Hong Kong startup Fashion  Clinic collaborated with Calvin Klein and launched the REIMAGINED DENIM COLLECTION, an upcycled limited edition capsule collection that was exclusively available in Hong Kong, with the whole production taking place in the city.

To kick off the project, a total of 2,000 pairs of off-season, unworn Calvin Klein jeans were handed to Fashion Clinic. To make the whole manufacturing process more sustainable, the team reached out to local manufacturers to transform the deadstock into a collection of denim jackets, jeans, hats, skirts, bralettes, and a special tiger teddy. Storing 2,000 pairs of jeans was one of the struggles, and taking these jeans apart was another, both in terms of technical know-how and the time involved, since these denim garments were all attached with hardware like zippers, studs, and rivets. To make the best use of those scrap fabrics that could not upcycle, Fashion Clinic collected several boxes of them to be part of the capsule collection’s in-store event, with a needle-punching machine set up for people to turn these denim scraps into coasters.

Kay Wong, creative director of Fashion Clinic, has observed over the years that the city has a very high throw-away culture, making upcycling all the more critical. The production and time costs for upcycling products are much higher than producing new ones. Yet there is still much room to raise people’s awareness of sustainability and develop upcycling culture and businesses compared to the rest of the world.

California, USA
Altering Vintage Jeans Into Modern Fits

Los Angeles-based RE/DONE focuses on creating sustainable, mindful fashion. The company started out by altering vintage Levi’s jeans into new, modern fits, and has since evolved to create its own denim based on vintage styles. Designers from the label scour vintage stores and flea markets and hand-pick vintage men’s jeans in order to rework them to fit fashionable modern women.

Denim that has been distressed through actual wear and tear is comfortable to wear, and no two pieces look the same. As a result, every item in the RE/DONE catalogue has an individual look and is a one-of-a-kind luxury piece. Since day one, the brand has made sustainability central to its operation. By extending the life of stagnant stock, RE/DONE has so far diverted 225,850 garments from landfills and saved millions of gallons of water. Industry-standard treatments like sand-washing and chemical processes result in runoff that can be massively damaging to the environment. By contrast, RE/DONE employs water-reduced, lowchemical manufacturing methods in its production without the use of any harsh chemicals.

RE/DONE has been committed to creating a sustainable fashion brand from the start. All of their products are made locally, with the production range limited to a 15-mile radius of their LA headquarters, thus stimulating the local community. The brand uses recycled packaging and a large portion of their product is upcycled as well.

Founders Sean Barron and Jamie Mazur believe that Re/Done is the quintessential brand for millennials, reflecting their concern for the environment while at the same time embodying their sense of uniqueness and individuality.

California, USA
Brand-new Jeans Sourced From Deadstock Cotton Denim

Hillary Justin started her label, Bliss and Mischief, by updating vintage jeans with Western motifs and gigantic rose embroideries, and they were such a hit that she was able to expand into a full line of T-shirts, jumpsuits, and knits.

In 2017, she introduced a line of brand-new vintage style jeans designed, sewn and hand-detailed entirely in Los Angeles, California. The denim used is sourced from 100% deadstock cotton denim found locally , and the brand has also been steadfast in connecting personally with local sewers and manufacturers. This ensures that Bliss and Mischief’s carbon footprint is kept to a minimum.

Denim is made from cotton, which is grown with harmful fertilizers and pesticides and requires huge amounts of water to produce. Growing the cotton for a single pair of non-organic cotton jeans might take upwards of 1,800 gallons of water. The global demand for cotton has also led to over-farmed, barren land, and soil erosion, which affects the health of the entire planet.

By using deadstock for a large part of its denim line, Bliss and Mischief helps cut down on the harmful effects of cotton cultivation and garment production. Deadstock fabrics are usually a result of overproduction, leftover stock, or cancelled orders from the large garment makers, factories, and textile mills around the world.