Upcycling innovation empowers future of fashion sustainability

More than 74% of discarded garments find their way into landfills, and the issue of fashion waste has become an escalating worry for both brands and consumers. To extend the life of garments and reduce waste, many designers are turning to upcycling, a creative way of transforming old or unwanted fabrics into new and beautiful items.

Figure 1: Upcycled dress designed from large roll ends (Design: Reet Aus. Photo: Krõõt Tarkmees)

Upcycling is an eco-friendly option for this process, a term formed by blending ‘upgrading’ (adding value) and ‘recycling’ (reusing). Upcycling involves reevaluating waste or discarded materials and converting them into valuable creations.

Figure 2: Upcycled jeans designed from excess fabric (Design: Reet Aus, 2019. Photo: Krõõt Tarkmeel)

Industrial upcycling effectively tackles pre-consumer textile waste, accounting for 25-40% of total fabric use in garment production. Various upcycling techniques and leftover materials were examined, revealing up to 50-80% of waste can be repurposed into new clothing.

Figure 3: Revenue share of the sustainable apparel market worldwide from 2013 to 2026 ( Courtesy: Statista Research Department)

According to Statista Research Department, The revenue share of sustainable apparel worldwide, which includes upcycled clothing, is projected to grow from 4.3% in 2022 to 6.14% in 2026.

German startup Eeden is revolutionizing textile waste recycling through innovative upcycling methods. They use chemical upcycling to extract cellulose from cotton textiles, creating sustainable lyocell and viscose. This aligns with the Circular economy principles endorsed by the EU. Eeden’s approach reduces chemicals and by-products and addresses Europe’s textile waste challenge, while also fostering new fiber resources.

Figure 4:  The team at Eeden. Photo Credit: Eeden.

Infinited Fiber is a leading sustainable textile production with patented technology that transforms discarded materials into premium Infinna fibers, offering softness, dye absorption, and antimicrobial properties.

 These fibers resemble cotton and offer a circular alternative for various fabrics, addressing environmental issues and reducing water consumption. In partnership with Rejlers Finland, they’re establishing a commercial-scale Infinna fiber factory to meet global demand and reduce reliance on virgin resources.

Figure 5: The superfibre-Infinna™

Our Choice Fashion is a Luxembourg-based company that makes sneakers and wallets from plastic-free materials, such as calf leather, natural rubber, coconut fiber, and eco-cotton. The company aims to be circular by designing products that are durable, repairable, and recyclable. The company also follows international environmental standards and uses food industry by-products.

RE.STATEMENT is the online marketplace for upcycled fashion, which are new clothes created from existing or used materials. RE.STATEMENT offers a diverse range of designs and styles, from denim jackets with painted designs to sweaters with patchwork patterns, and with new collections of upcycled clothing added every month, you will always find something new and exciting. Whether to look good, be eco-friendly, or both, RE.STATEMENT is a great way to support ethical fashion.

Figure 6: Upcycled Hand-Dyed Dress made by RE.STATEMENT

Transform Western Fashion Waste with Upcycling

Recently In Johannesburg, South Africa, two aspiring designers, Khumo Morojele and Klein Muis, are giving new life to Western fashion waste through upcycling. They source second-hand clothing from European countries and transform them into avant-garde and abstract fashion that expresses a uniquely African style.

They are working with other African creatives on a variety of projects. One such project involves teaming up with a Ghanaian shoemaker to transform old soccer boots into sandals. This project aims to repurpose and give new life to old sports.

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