For years now, the Indian fashion industry has been driven by desirability - in making clothes that appeal to the fashion conscious, irrespective of how they were made or where the raw materials came from. But as the fashion industry has evolved, a new breed of designers are becoming more environmentally concious and are trying to create collections in an environmentally responsible manner.
This sense of responsibility has spurred a new movement towards sustainability in the fashion industry called ‘upcycling’. Upcycling refers to the method of reusing old products to create products that are of greater value than the original.
Predominantly seen in home decor and accessories, upcycling is a clever way of utilising old materials that would otherwise be deemed as ‘junk’. Old tetra packs become wallets, recycled paper and cardboard are used in making earrings and old and torn denims get repurposed into trendy tote bags.
Levis - the denim heavyweights - are now showing their support for sustainability by incorporating discarded plastic bottles into the manufacture of their denims. They are currently proudly displaying this initiative of theirs on their jeans with a catchy tagline that proclaims that the pair is made out of ‘garbage’ - a move that is working in their favour, thanks to the buzz that it has created.
With upcycling being the new buzzword in the lifestyle sector, it is hardly surprising that fashion designers are now getting involved. A-listers Abraham & Thakore took a plunge recently and displayed their collection called ‘Old-New’ earlier this year at the Amazon India Fashion Week. While studying kantha and suzani fabrics the duo realised that kantha was nothing but a traditional and imaginative way to use up old fabrics by repurposing them into quilts and bedcovers. With kantha work as the uniting factor, they ended up creating an entire line of clothing which was embellished with discarded coke cans, discarded buttons and X-ray films which were repurposed into sequins! What set the line apart from regular kantha work was that it was done on grey, charcoal, black and ivory fabrics as opposed to printed fabrics which is the norm.
Another prominent designer who incorporated upcycled products in his collection is Amit Agarwal. His Autumn / Winter collection this year from his new label, AM.IT was crafted out of discarded felt bindi sheets, sourced from factories in Delhi. Making the clothes more sustainable was the addition of old stocking and recycled plastic sheets along with ikat and batik fabric. The melange of colours and textures in his clothing proved to be a visual feast, and it is hard to believe that most of the outfit was made of what would normally be termed as ‘junk’.
There is a lot of interest in upcycled fabrics today, but it will take a while to become mainstream. We believe that adding recycled elements into the outfits actually adds a bit of story to it, making it even more valuable than before. However, there are also people who are sceptical about wearing something made of ‘used’ items. As we veer more and more towards the ‘use and throw’ lifestyle and environmental issues become more pressing, it remains to be seen whether the use of upcycling with spread throughout the fashion industry and beyond.
Image credit: greendiary