Saturday, 23 June 2012

What is upcycling?

As ethical fashion evolves, so does the terminology used to describe the different ways in which you can shop! Upcycling is becoming ever more popular, so much so that Topshop has recently launched a collection in partnership with Reclaim to Wear. But are you totally au fait with what it involves? Here Charlotte Bobeldijk, the founder of Grassroots Fashion tells us all about it, and talks us through the process she follows when making items for her gorgeous collection.

What exactly is upcycling?
Upcycling is a term used to describe the process of taking an item or a number of items, such as a piece of furniture, a collection of old trinkets or clothing and producing a new item of higher value than the original. In clothing this means taking a garment which is no longer valued because it is unfashionable or undesirable and using any number of techniques from embellishment to total reconstruction to transform the garment into something desirable and as a result, increasing its.

Where does the idea come from?
People have been 'upcycling' for a long time, way before the term 'upcycling' was assigned to it. In the past, when fashion was not as readily accessible as it is today, women often used upcycling as a way of keeping up with fashion without blowing the budget. Women's magazines would often feature articles on how to transform a garment such as a plain shirt by adding new sleeves or a collar.

What inspired you to start a business based on it?
The decision to start Grassroots was influenced by the impact fashion has on the environment. I strongly believe that the world simply cannot support the speed at which we consume goods. Fashion has become extremely fast paced and uses such a huge amount of the earths resources. We cannot continue consuming in this way, or if we do we will (as we have already) see disastrous consequences in the environment. Upcycling provides a way for us to satisfy our desire for new fashions, but without using new materials at the cost of the environment.

How do you see upcycling impacting postitively on the world?
Currently in the UK, we throw away 1.4 million tonnes of clothing every year. And then we head to the high street to replace all the stuff we've thrown out with new clothes which we will eventually throw out once we're bored of them and so the cycle of waste continues. Upcycling clothing stops this cycle as instead of throwing the clothes out, they are re-worked into something new. If more people donate their clothes and buy upcycled clothing we can dramatically reduce our waste and we would also be much less of a drain on the earths resources.

What are the steps you take to turn an old piece of clothing into something new and desirable?
At Grassroots we produce clothing that provides women with an ethical alternative to the high street. Each garment is individual and reflects the current fashion trends so this is where each upcycling project starts. We have mood boards highlighting key trends, colours, sillhouettes and details for the season and this forms the basis for the upcycling inspiration. We then find a suitable garment to transform from our stock of donated clothing and work out how best to work with the garment. If the fabric is great we will use that, but perhaps transform the sillhouette, or if the shape and fit is ideal, but the design is lack lustre we may embellish it or add a detail such as a new collar. The garment tends to dictate what is done. Each piece is individually re-designed and upcycled so no two garments will be the same. Here's an example of some of the upcycling work we do at Grassroots.

Who's your customer?
Grassroots wants to encourage women to break free from the high street! We understand that the high street enables people to dress fashionably without spending a fortune and this is very appealing. However as we all know, the real cost of high street fashion may not be in our purses, but the much higher cost of our environment. Grassroots provides fashionable clothing which reflects the current trends, at affordable prices, with the added bonus that each piece is unique and not harming the environment. The Grassroots customer is an intelligent, independent woman who likes to express her individuality through her appearance and is not afraid to break away from the high steet!

Find Grassroots on ASOS Marketplace or

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