At the end of 2019, clothing brand Patagonia launched ReCrafted, a collection of popular products made from waste fabric. The project was unexpectedly successful, and other manufacturers were interested in this experience.
Thanks to the trend towards environmental protection, upcycling or recycling of old things is becoming more and more popular. The Patagonia case shows that making garments that make up a huge proportion of waste can be greener.
Fashion for upcycling: why clothing manufacturers recycle it
ReCrafted appeared as an experiment, but according to Alex Kremer, who heads the profile direction at Patagonia, the last year and a half the success of the project has been overwhelming. The brand has already sold several thousand items. Their cost ranges from $ 57- $ 231, which is more expensive than conventional models, but they sell out very quickly. Kremer believes that the upcycling trend can be used by all fashion brands and will be profitable.
Once only the most dedicated environmentalists were involved in recycling and reusing clothing, it is now in vogue. However, this trend has a downside. Some brands have started to create supposedly recycled items.
In December 2020, Zara teamed up with the Fashion Designers Council of America attracted new designers to create vintage clothing. However, they had to use a new fabric provided by Zara. These models were made from new materials and sold as a capsule collection in select Zara stores. From the outside, it seemed that the goal of the program was to make upcycling a part of fast fashion, but in reality the collection was no different from the traditional one. The brand declined to comment for this story.
However, the Patagonia example shows that brands can make upcycling a part of their business model and thereby get rid of the huge waste generated by the fashion industry.
Difficulties of upcycling
Since the 1980s, when brands started producing cheap clothing overseas, the fashion industry has grown exponentially. Now every year issued more than 100 billion garments, double the 2000 level. According to report Ellen MacArthur, many consumers wear the item only seven times before getting rid of it. This means that the world is literally drowning in old clothes.
Patagonia is looking for creative ways to clean up used clothing from landfills. The company offers a repair service and a buyback program for the resale of used clothing. But over the years, she had accumulated items that could not be repaired, and designers wondered how to use them responsibly. “We have been inspired by our clients who are creative in clothing repair and by the craftsmen who make beautiful products from waste,” says Kremer. “The ReCrafted project was our attempt to scale up upcycling.”
The subculture of those who sewed new things from vintage clothing has always existed. Over the past five years, some manufacturers have successfully entered resale marketplaces such as Depop or Poshmark. Other brands, such as FanFare and Zero Waste Daniel, are upcycling only. Like Patagonia, Eileen Fisher is recycling.
The main problem with upcycling is that it takes a lot of time and labor. Apparel supply chains are designed for maximum efficiency: brands create a consistent style, select fabrics, and then produce the same items on the factory line. But for recycling, you have to work with what you have.
The Patagonia team decided to streamline the process. About a dozen designs were developed, including bags, jackets, vests and T-shirts, that would have made use of the existing materials. For example, they use heavy denim and canvas to make durable bags. Thus, they have the same shape, but a unique look from the fabric scraps. “We tried to match the process with the traditional production method, but we wanted to use as much waste as possible,” says Kremer.
To this end, Patagonia partnered with Los Angeles-based Suay Sew Shop, which has expertise in recycling. The tailors relied on the samples they received and made items from discarded clothes that Patagonia sent in every week. Kremer says that this is how labor costs rise (each item takes several hours), but at the same time the company does not pay for raw materials. “The fabric is free,” he says. “We pay for the creativity and skill of the tailors.”
Convince a mass buyer
Patagonia has sold thousands of these products already, and Kremer expects the upcycling business to continue to grow. But for a fashion trend to go mainstream, it’s important to create designs that resonate. Often, craftsmen give such things a specific look that indicates their origin. For example, a patch is selected in a contrasting color. Kremer says: “Scars tell a story. You may be asked where the patch came from, and you can tell how you skied through thorny bushes and tore your jacket. “
The ReCrafted line also includes products with more classic designs, such as gray down jackets or red jackets with black trim (close up you can see that the red fabric is sewn from patches, although this is invisible from a distance). There are other items that stand out for their unique color combinations. These items are one of a kind, but do not necessarily look like they were made from discarded clothes.
Kremer believes young consumers will accelerate the spread of the upcycling trend. Generation Z take a closer look refers to protect the environment and increase the demand for upcycling and second-hand. Other brands have already started taking an interest in the Patagonia system in order to implement it in their production. “We are so happy when they call us,” says Kremer. “We cannot change the industry alone, but together, our recycling projects can leave a huge dent in the ecological footprint of the fashion industry.”
Cover photo: Vannaweb / Shutterstock
*The article has been translated based on the content of Rusbase by rb.ru. If there is any problem regarding the content, copyright, please leave a report below the article. We will try to process as quickly as possible to protect the rights of the author. Thank you very much!
*We just want readers to access information more quickly and easily with other multilingual content, instead of information only available in a certain language.
*We always respect the copyright of the content of the author and always include the original link of the source article.If the author disagrees, just leave the report below the article, the article will be edited or deleted at the request of the author. Thanks very much! Best regards!