This post was written for Wardrobe Crisis.
The age old saying “one’s trash is another’s treasure” is becoming increasingly applicable in fashion today. Upcycling, the process of converting old, used or waste materials into something new and useful, is a technique growing in momentum and interest – whether it’s a well-worn pair of denim jeans, a tattered pillowcase or your grandma’s patchwork quilt that’s the starting point.
This forms part of the broader fashion context that’s seeing bigger brands respond to the looming threat of resource scarcity in innovative ways. H&M’s Conscious collections feature a mass of recycled fabrics, while Adidas and G-Star Raw have partnered with Parley for the Oceans to create swimwear, footwear and denim from ocean plastic waste.
Although upcycling is only in the early stages of infiltrating the wardrobes of the masses, there’s a bunch of young designers exploring the concept and testing its boundaries. These two Aussie talents are ones to watch:
With a goal to explore upcycled fabrics, the social boundaries that surround them and the ensuing relationship with the wearer, Nessie Croft is a girl after our own hearts. Not only is she challenging long-held opinions on waste, but she is doing so in a way that speaks of true luxury. With a fine eye for detail, the designer’s debut ‘Jacque’ collection takes inspiration from the history books: high-necked collars, billowing sleeves and delicate shirting. Old-world silhouettes come into the now, made appropriate for the modern-day woman.
Now she has a new label, Coreprêt, co-founded with Gabrielle Leavesley, which further explores slow fashion.
They’re using only upcycled materials, factory surplus and organic fibres, driven by strong design and ethics. For those who worry that typical ethical fashion tends to be too basic in form and shape, Coreprêt promises the maximalist conscious consumer an alternative riff via frills and ruffles, and architectural denim and suiting.
Long before Woolworths agreed to #banthebag, Sydney-based Lara Ireland was turning the every-day plastic bag into pieces worthy of wonder.
Plastic shopping bags have proved a viable textile product thanks to Lara’s ARTIFICE collection – which challenges our perceptions of waste. In her hands, trash is transformed into something luxurious. As she told The Forbes Advocate, “ARTIFICE represents fashion made from the thrown-away.”
Under her meticulous direction, this humble material has been given an haute makeover – woven into tactile tweeds that wouldn’t look amiss in a David Jones presentation. And yet each garment is made from 100% repurposed plastic bags, that we know are thrown-away after an average use of just 12 minutes. From a distance, you could be forgiven for mistaking this “fabric” as woollen; Ireland’s cosy houndstooth tops and oversized vests play with proportions.
The UTS graduate recently took her cradle-to-cradle collection to Vancouver for the 2016 Arts of Fashion Foundation (and managed to get herself on the UK Vogue website) – an opportunity that placed her among 50 talented young designers from across the globe. What’s next? Ireland faces no scarcity of resources when plastic is her material of choice. We can’t wait to see where she takes this.
If there is one thing these young Australian designers have taught us, it’s to never constrain the uses of an object. With a little creativity and much hard work, almost anything can be made new once again. Soon we may all be donning outfits deviated from plastic bottles, vintage tea-towels and who knows what else. Oh, the wonders we will see.