By Morgan Boosamra
In the wake of fast fashion and its impact on the environment, many fashion designers and creatives such as me have taken it upon themselves to make a change, no matter how big or small it may seem. All creatives or designers face the battle of sourcing and finding the right materials for the project at hand, the difference between creatives is how they go about sourcing these materials. Rather than always looking for what is new and untouched to work with, artists of many mediums look to reuse and repurpose materials with prior value or purpose in a new and innovative way. It allows designers to be more mindful and innovative with resourcing materials, as well as how they are implemented into the creations themselves. It is the possibility of sustainable opportunities in a waste-filled industry, as the fashion industry stands as a leading contributor to things such as air pollution, textile waste, landfill pollution, water pollution, and much more.
The impacts of fashion on the environment are more prominent now than ever, with fast fashion remaining a huge craze within the market, with the low prices and trendy pieces, the appeal often succeeds any negative impacts to the consumer. This is often due to lack of awareness, with fast fashion companies such as Shein and Romwe having impacts that start but do not end with the concerns with our planet. There is poor ethics in the workplaces of many fast fashion companies, artwork and designs from small creatives resold cheaply without credit, and overall contribution to the never-ending cycle of “what’s new”. The whole idea of upcycling fashion is to take something with a feeling of old life to a product of newness. This takes creativity, innovativeness, craftsmanship, resourcefulness and artistry as always.
Ways to upcycle into fashion are endless in potential and have continuously been proven to be so by current and upcoming designers such as myself and my peers. To see something that others see as trash, as something with potential for a new or different life is a talent and niche that is often referred to as upcycling, or otherwise reworking and recycling. Some designers specializing in this just here at Central Michigan University are Devin Ricks and Erik Clancy, known for taking advantage of pre-loved clothing or textiles and giving them a new look that is fresh in energy, design, and overall aesthetic. The ways in which one can upcycle a garment or material are endless, but start with a desire to reinvent, repurpose, and inspire as always.
The first step to most projects, but especially in upcycling, is to source the materials you will need. In our classes we are often trained to search in places such as in retail fabric stores and online, when in reality there is a plethora of options available right before our very eyes. Whether it be a pair of pants you have not worn in a long time that could use a new life, or that button down shirt at the thrift store that you like the fabric of. Designers like Devin Ricks seek thrift stores such as your local “ma and pop” shops for pre-loved garments and textiles but also look toward places such as craft stores and textile scrap donation centers to find more specialty and unique fabrics that can be used in various ways. It depends on your resources available to choose from as well as the style of upcycling intended.
Once the materials for the project are sourced, the creative is then able to move forward with their upcycling from patchwork to bleach dyeing, to using garments as fabric entirely, there are many ways to make garments not only personal to you or the customer, but also in environmentally conscious ways that impact our Earth. In face of what some may see as a challenge, having to repurpose and make use of oddities of resources, many designers excel and find new opportunities and avenues of design that they had not before thought possible.
Sourcing can be essential when making a project, but in search of those materials one thing these designers do is look at what they already have that they can use. After that, the question is “what can I reuse, repurpose, and give new life to, rather than buy new altogether.” There is so much potential for new and creative endeavors within upcycling fashion alone, the creative limits are endless. Mindfulness, innovation, and the desire to do better for our Earth and for each other is what repurpose, upcycle, give a new life.