Dressed in Rags? Upcycle Is All The Rage

If you are just tuning in to how the world is struggling to cope with environmental constraints due to climate change and the grave impact of fast fashion, shame on you! This out of control consumption and disposal cannot last.

Narci Lee, Refashioner, photo shoot at EDGE offices

Imagine a future where the fashion industry is only sustainable through recycle, up-cycle, and reclaimed clothing . . . nothing is disposed of.  Second-hand clothing becomes a valuable resource.  End of life cycle: simply throwing away clothes, shoes, and accessories is not an option!  Everything must be re-purposed.  Hmm, it makes you think about what, how much, and how often of what you buy.  This future will corner the consumer to slow down the consumption and buy smart; buy quality; know the story of the maker; seek and appreciate artistry and innovation.  All in all, consuming this way adds the value of purpose, meaning, and timelessness to each piece you own.

Demographic change, global warming, and the rising costs of resources, make this a future right around the corner.  The industry is feeling the effect and taking action, but a long way to go.

World Wear Project reports that consumers throw away shoes and clothing [versus recycle], an average of 70 pounds per person, annually – forget the garbage.  They go on to say that while a few communities have textile recycling programs, about 85% of this waste goes to landfills where it occupies about 5% of landfill space and the amount is growing.   Landfill space is expensive and hard to find.    

Today’s fashion industry is in a state of over-consumption , all driven by speed and disposability.  If you love fashion, what are you doing to change this global crisis?

Recycle, Up-cycle, Refashion, is all the rage.  Designers in the up-cycle business are making clothes from dead-stock material sourced from high-end mills and factories;  reclaiming scraps off the floor of cutting factories; re-using paper products; vintage and discarded yarns take on new meaning; refashioning thrift and consignment store finds; and creating a fashion look with computer wiring!

Narci Lee, an independent artist [Ventura, California] who creates ‘one of a kinds’ from household linens, men’s shirting and thrift items, sat down to talk to me.  We gain a little insight into why she reclaims unwanted textiles, how and who benefits.

. . .this is my passion, I really have a voice, I have something to say. – Narci Lee, Refashioner


Narci Lee, Designer
Narci Lee, refashioned painted skirt

Narci, who labels her pieces as wearable art, says she got into this business ‘being bored with current styles’.  She wanted to be unique, stand out, and is confident that if you don’t get the look, it’s OK with her [it may not be right for everyone].  She is doing her part in de-carbonizing the earth with her system of up-cycling.

As a creator, Narci finds this means of expressing her artistic abilities very fulfilling.  She says, “up-cycling is really important to me, this is my passion, I really have a voice, I have something to say”.

Narci, who calls herself a re-fashioner, shops estate sales, buys bulk discarded textiles, and her favorite items are men’s shirts.    She uses every part of a man’s shirt to up-cycle a new item.  For example, she takes the sleeves of a man’s shirt and makes it into a skirt.  Voila! Re-purposed fashionable ‘can’t find it anywhere’ skirt.   One of her customers, an instructor from FIDM [Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising], said to her, ‘When I wear your things, when I put your outfit on, I feel it [I feel your creation].  It makes me feel like a million bucks”.

Imagine that the future of fashion will serve a purpose to not only save the earth but a meaningful reason to consume.

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Rhonda P. Hill

Founder, Publishing Editor

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