Its been awhile since I’ve written about sustainable fashion, but it’s something I read about often and try to implement into my daily life.
To me, sustainable fashion is not just about supporting brands who have commendable sustainability policies such as trying to ethically source materials and produce them in factories with high standards and a liveable wage to its workers.
Sustainable fashion is also remembering that you don’t always need to buy everything new. You can easily fix/upgrade things you already have instead of throwing them out by default. (A good tailor is a great friend.) Mostly anything these days, usually at a high quality, is also available second-hand. I am not even talking about just clothes, but also furniture, baby items, electronics, etc.
I came across this important and timely article published last month in the Financial Times, which is a dear favorite newspaper for me, as I used to work for them right before I left New York to Jerusalem (from 2008-2010) and was even once published! (Still excited about it ten years later😉)
The article I want to talk about here is called “The Future of Fashion is Old Clothes” by Lauren Indvik.
(*If the link isn’t working for you and it asks you to become a subscriber to the FT, you can just copy and paste the title of the article into Google and it should come up first. It then somehow lets you into the article that way.)
The article goes into detail about how upcycling is not only creeping its way into designer and high-end fashion, but is becoming very desirable.
“Once a novelty associated with fashion students and cash-poor teenagers with charity shop habits and home sewing machines, repurposed garments and materials have become almost ubiquitous in luxury collections over the past year. “
I found this article after wanting to know more about Gabriela Hearst. I came across an interesting talk with her that the Met hosted on Facebook last month (link at the bottom of the post), which discussed Gabriela’s first collection at Chloé, after becoming the new Creative Director back in December 2020. Gabriela also has her own line of luxury womenswear and always has been committed to a circular economy and regularly using deadstock. (Deadstock is a word for a brand’s leftover fabrics. They are mostly from overestimating their needs, but they can also be the leftovers from pattern cutting. These fabrics usually end up in a landfill. )
Gabriela mentions in the talk that one of the main reasons she wanted her current job at Chloé is to shake up the market. To show that a large and iconic French brand in the luxury space can be fully committed to sustainability policies.
Her first collection for Chloé was extremely successful.
What did she do? Upcycle.
“For her debut Chloé show this month, the designer Gabriela Hearst acquired 50 second-hand versions of the brand’s once-popular Edith bag from eBay and, using scraps of yarn, leather and wool left over from previous Chloé collections, reworked them by hand into refreshingly original, one-of-a-kind creations. With prices at €2,500 to €3,100 per bag, the customer response was wild, Hearst says in an interview back home in New York 10 days later. Whereas well-heeled buyers might once have turned up their noses at the idea of carrying someone else’s old handbag, today some of the most in-demand items at luxury houses are unique items crafted from worn or leftover materials.”
“This is the first time I can remember in my life that upcycling is actually a desirable trend,” says Caroline Brown, a former chief executive of Donna Karan and DKNY who is now managing director of sustainability-focused investment group Closed Loop Partners. “There are now consumers choosing to buy second-hand over new.”
“The Edith bags were not a one-off for Hearst, who has been using recycled and deadstock fabrics and reworking last season’s unsold stock into her namesake collections for years. She has pledged to make 80 per cent of her products from non-virgin materials by the end of next year. “It’s really exciting that this is now exciting,” she says. “From my very first show in 2017 we used upcycled materials, and it was controversial. It was not a thing that was considered luxury.”
I have always had a secret love for upcycling and second-hand. You can find on this blog many references to this passion, such as the first-ever list in English of second-hand stores in Jerusalem and a more in-depth look of an organization called Fashion Revolution who does amazing work on trying to change the direction of the fashion industry by committing to the policies of “reuse, rewear, recycle”.
It is not only important to be able to reuse and limit waste, but at the same time you can find pieces with history and meaning and much better quality fabrics at second-hand stores. Upcycling can also be fun and creative. I have basic sewing skills, so sometimes I manage to do simple upcycling projects which are really fun , but for something more complicated I have a tailor help me repurpose a garment. I have found very high quality second-hand pieces around Jerusalem, and with a bit of alterations the end result is usually cheaper and more beautiful then something I would buy new.
We also love finding old furniture around the city and upcycling them for various uses. (Usually my husband helps me out with these projects.) For example, last week we found a 70s retro, pink chair in our neighborhood waiting for a new home. It only needed a small upgrade and is already back in use.
I am very inspired by this article and looking forward to continue following not only Gabriela Hearst, but other brands and designers who are committed and proud to upcycling and using deadstock for various uses. This is definitely the future of fashion.
Below is the conversation with Gabriela Hearst and Alina Cho, on behalf of the Met. Definitely a recommended watch!
Do you also love upcycling? Would love to hear your thoughts!