Technology has influenced fashion more and more. With the increased use of social media, spreading awareness about contemporary issues becomes more accessible and democratic. That is the case in the discussion of sustainability in the fashion world. Young people are beginning to realize that consumerism causes many problems for the environment. Also, many are doing something about it. And this is how fashion gains a new phenomenon: upcycling.
WHAT IS UPCYCLING?
Upcycling is using materials that you already have to create something new. For example, a TikTok trend among Gen-Z is to use socks and create tops and corsets.
The practice of upcycling started in 1994 but has become more common after the financial crash in 2008.
This trend has also become more popular during the Covid-19 pandemic. People found themselves at home, looking for ways to make time pass. It didn’t take long until do-it-yourself influencers started to upcycle clothes they didn’t use anymore. This practice gives the pieces a glam up, making them more modern, cooler and, also, allows each one of us to add our personal touch to our wardrobe.
Nowadays, upcycling has become a way to create unique pieces of clothing. As the industry distances itself from fast fashion, having an exclusive piece has become more valuable. This shift can also be seen in the increased popularity of NFTs (non-fundable tokens), handmade items, and many more. This sense of uniqueness and exclusivity is another reason why upcycling is gaining space in the fashion industry.
In addition, people are starting to realize that sustainability isn’t just “taking shorter showers.” Big companies have to be held accountable as well. Fashion brands have been called out for their unsustainable actions, and the consumers are getting tired of expecting change.
In the meantime, upcycling can be an easy and fun practice to provide a sustainable path for clothes that are no longer in use.
WHEN TECH MEETS FASHION
As mentioned previously, technology plays an essential role in reviving the upcycling trend. For example, many fashion creators have become famous on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube for teaching how to upcycle your clothes in a creative way. Those tutorials show that it’s possible to create cool pieces without experience or complex materials.
In addition, new brands are finding ways to join in the upcycling trend. This is the case with the British brand Ahluawalia. They created a project in partnership with Microsoft called “Circulate,” where the community can send used clothes in exchange for store credit. The sent garments are then upcycled and sold as unique, new pieces for the upcoming collection. This project combines two points that every company should be thinking about: sustainability and technology.
Another recent trend that has increased the popularity of upcycling is the increase in marketplaces and e-Commerce platforms. A few years ago, it would be necessary to create a whole new website to sell a product. That would require time and technology knowledge that wasn’t always accessible for everyone. But now, there are many options to choose from if you don’t want to create a brand new website.
Depop, for example, has become famous amongst Gen-Z for its user interface. Very similar to Instagram, Depop has a feed and explore page, which allows you to follow your favorite sellers and keep up with the new trends. The platform also made it easy for young entrepreneurs to share their upcycling creations with little to no complications.
IS IT ENOUGH?
Although it is a good step in the conversation about sustainability in fashion, upcycling is not enough. A lot more has to be done to solve the massive problem of overproduction and overconsumption in the industry.
However, upcycling can be a way to show big corporations that fashion can and should be sustainable. It shows them that customers are concerned about our planet and want more than just fashion trends. As clients and fashion buyers, we want to wear outfits that have a story and a meaning behind them. Upcycling is a way to show how the fashion industry could be sustainable – all it takes is the willingness to transform it.
Check out our previous article about Circular Economy and how it’s also a possibility to create a more eco-conscious industry and lifestyle.