It’s a trend that boomed during the pandemic, and it seems it’s likely to last a long time. We are talking about upcycling¾the conversion process which takes discarded products or wasted raw materials and gives them new life, making them even more beautiful and interesting from an economic point of view as well. It is a way of reusing things that is catching on more and more, just about everywhere in the world.

Upcycling can be applied to so many products¾from jewelry to furniture to household items to clothing and fashion accessories. Making bracelets from old flip-flops, lamps from old bottles; turning wood scraps into chairs and bookshelves; these are just a couple examples of creative upcycling!

However, there is one sector that has been embracing upcycling over the past two years more than any other: the fashion industry. It has gone so far as to affect commercial policies of major brands. Born as a niche phenomenon, creative recycling of clothes and accessories is becoming an economic strategy that have many international big brands investing. Economic results have made it clear that heading toward eco-sustainability is well regarded and also brings decent profits. Not to mention that it greatly reduces costs and can help businesses to recover profit from unsold goods. It is another way to avoid waste.

Upcycling has surpassed vintage

It’s not about wearing clothes or accessories that are already used. It means making new products from old ones, combining fabrics or repurposing them. You might be able to make a tablecloth from an old sack or turn jeans into shorts or a t-shirt into a tank top. This is a conscious fashion choice that many celebs, influencers, and famous people in our societies are embracing.

The social media climb

The #upcycledclothing hashtag has over 668,000 posts on Instagram and on TikTok #upcycledfashion exceeds 427 million views. More and more people are drawn to upcycling, a creative proposition that balances ethics and aesthetics. Scrolling through social media, it is increasingly easy to come across tutorials explaining how to re-imagine a dress you no longer like or revamp an old top. There are videos by leaders in the fashion industry that have reached millions of likes and views.

Upcycling and Gen Z

Upcycling has grown in popularity especially with Gen Z, which is drawn to reduced consumption and creativity. Research found that about 90 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds prefer to buy secondhand clothing, and nearly 80 percent would more willingly buy from sustainable brands. Generation Z has a whole new mindset in regard to clothing which pairs well with their views on environmental sustainability. The waste and ever-growing carbon footprint of the fashion industry makes it one of the most polluting industries in the world. Apparently, the “fast fashion” industry emits more CO2 than the aviation and maritime industries combined and uses about 80 billion cubic meters of fresh water per year, and the production of raw materials and textiles contributes significantly to water pollution due to the dyes used.

Young people, therefore, prefer to reuse and revive objects in a way that they are even more beautiful than before. Instead of wasting old garments, jewelry, etc., they become a part of a circular economy. It is estimated that in a few years' time, this trend in the fashion industry may exceed twice that of fast fashion by 2030.

Meanwhile, apps are on the rise

This is, in essence, a consumer-driven change, to which fashion brands and lifestyles are adapting. We are witnessing a phenomenon that has been widely spread via the internet, mainly affecting the online shopping industry. We are witnessing a substantial rise in sustainable clothing apps.

There are more and more platforms that offer alternatives to sending unwanted items to the landfill. Some allow people to swap clothes, while others teach people how to creatively reuse items and fabrics. Some of them have seen an increase in users by more than 100 percent within just a year.

There are apps for reselling clothes and accessories that have 20 million users, and there are even more apps suitable for all tastes and needs, with children's fashion apps also showing definite growth.

Reduce-reuse-recycle: the slogan is becoming increasingly popular in the fashion industry as well. To follow this new model, one can focus on repurposing garments and try to make them more durable. Our grandmother’s methods of needle and thread, cutting and sewing are making a come-back as tools of creativity and sustainability. There is plenty of room for tutorials and videos for DYI projects. But for all the rest, big brands are getting on board with this trend, increasingly entrusting designers with upcycling.

In short, upcycling is an opportunity for the consumer to shop responsibly and for companies to make a turnover of several billion.

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