Let’s not confuse it with ‘recycling’. Upcycling and its potential new normality are synonymous with the desire to restore value to raw materials, a garment, and an accessory to produce something exclusive and unique. An idea that is in some ways old, but which today, thanks also to the pandemic, has undergone a substantial acceleration
Upcycling, transitory fashion, or the new normal? Everywhere you turn today, you discover projects that collect and reuse waste from the fashion industry and its production chain in what marketing has dubbed upcycling. The story goes back a long way if you think that leather has always been the waste product of another industry, the food industry. And in recent and not suspicious times, it found the Swiss of Freitag among the first protagonists. Their bags, made (in unique pieces) from discarded truck tarpaulins, have even been exhibited at the MOMA in New York. And today, in virtue of the project’s idea of absolute circularity, they have decided to recover the materials of their bags and turn them back into tarpaulins for trucks.
Is upcycling a new normal?
What is upcycling? It is not synonymous with recycling. Recycling means giving a garment a second life. On the other hand, upcycling is about giving value back to the raw material or garment to produce a new quality accessory. The main difference is that upcycling activates a new production cycle, often longer than a new product. In practice, even if the term is English-speaking and marketing-oriented, it is what grandmothers have been doing for decades, turning old jumpers into scarves or hats.
The Covid booster
In all of this, the pandemic played a role as an accelerator. It pushed designers to consider the available materials without looking for new ones. It has generated excess inventories, which, by upcycling, brands have found a way to reduce, finding a more receptive market, made up of Millennials and Generation Z., who is making this trend look cool. Upcycling offers the advantage of exclusivity. In other words, exclusive, unique items are produced from the discards and returns of mass-produced and identical products.
Just a drop in the ocean?
Although it is growing, the upcycling market still appears to be a drop in the ocean of consumption because often, insiders explain, a product born under this philosophy is purchased in addition to the “originals”. But it is also true that it is difficult for brands and retailers to consider this phenomenon as just a passing trend. But to influence the fashion world, upcycling will have to be the ‘new normal’. The reuse of existing materials has the potential to become standard practice. (mv)