Upcycled clothing - dazzle to inspire

By now, you should be aware of the new fashion standard - sustainability. We need to buy less to save our planet.

Yet, what about the economy? Thousands of people rely on the fashion industry for their livelihoods. What do we do about them?   

There are ways. Creative clothing brands are already doing something to be both sustainable, but also to create jobs and keep people working in the industry.   Upcycled fashion clothing is a new trend.   

This blog looks at upcycled clothing brands who are taking the world by storm and who are making a difference by re-using old garments to dazzle and to inspire. 

What are upcycled clothes?  

'Upcycled' is actually a very descriptive term that explains the concept perfectly.   Vintage clothes, accessories, and left-over stock ('dead stock') in the fashion industry are 'upped' from its current format into something new.

The benefits of upcycling

  • It is sustainability at its best. Old garments and fabrics are re-used and do not put additional strain on our planet.   Clothes are worn again and do not end up in landfills.  Waste is reduced, and old garments are creatively re-used. 
  • It is often cheaper than high street brands. 
  • It is 'new,' it is beautiful, and it is totally unique. Upcycled items are often much better than the original because of its design and value additions. 

Let’s look at a few creative upcycled clothing brands that recently hit the market.  We can expect to see much more of this in the years to come.

Upcycled casual clothing brands that are leading the fashion revolution 

Elvis and Kresse 

'You're the fire.'

In Dorset, in England, old boat sails, coffee sacks, and parachutes are given a new life at Elvis and Kresse.   The fashionable belt you’ve picked up from the shelf was probably once part of a fire hose. Their products are sturdy and individualistic.    

The idea for the fashion range developed when the founders of the company found out that more than 3 tons of discarded firehose end up in landfills every year.  Firehose material did not decompose quickly and was a severe environmental hazard. The team made it their mission to eliminate the disposal of firehose material and upcycle every last bit.   Today, beautiful, durable bags and other accessories are the showpieces of their brand.

Look at what they do here:  https://www.elvisandkresse.com/

Insane in the Rain 

'A jacket to make you happy'

The makers of the rain jackets from 'Insane in the rain' are doing their part in keep plastics away from dolphins in the ocean.

The company uses single-use plastic water- and soda bottles and turns it into a plastic fabric they call RPET.   (It stands for Recycled PET). The synthetic jackets are made only from recyclables, and it upcycles in one coat about 20 plastic bottles that would otherwise end up in a landfill or the ocean.

See their beautiful rain jacket designs here:  https://insaneintherain.com/about/


'The A-E of fashion standards'

This company is totally committed to sustainability.  They believe that true sustainability starts with the raw materials of fashion. You need to decide where you want to end up even before you start.

They call their standards for environmental impact 'Ref standards.' When considering any fabric, they reflect on water use, energy, toxicity, greenhouse gasses, and more.  (The process of deciding is open for inspection on their website.)

They have five categories.  

  • Natural fabrics that are plant-based and can be rapidly renewed gets the 'Allstars' badge.
  • 'Better than most' fabrics are natural or recycled material.
  • 'Could be better' covers the middle-ground: it is better than most, but not very innovative.
  • The 'Don't use' category fabrics can only be used if certified as organic or animal-friendly.
  • 'Eww’ fabrics do not meet Reformation’s sustainability criteria but might be a necessary evil in the construction of specific pieces.  They try to use fewer than 10% of this fabric in one garment.  

Reformation's ultimate goal is to let 75% of the fabrics they use be 'Allstars' or 'Better than most.'

Read more about Reformation here:  https://www.thereformation.com 

Reet Aus 

'It's the last of the roll.' 

This designer is a real slow fashion geek. Her entire industrial collection is upcycled and made from production left-overs. In the average fashion manufacturer’s factory, about 18% of textiles are wasted and go directly to the landfill.  

Reet Aus uses mountains of left-overs and creates new pieces in the same factory where the leftovers came from.    

The materials itself and its unpredictability inspire her.  Every season, she adds to her collection with new designs that can be mixed and matched with previous ones.

See more here: https://reetaus.com/


This company recycles leather bits from all around the world. Their aim is to reduce leather bits from ending up in landfills and taking years to disappear. 

The leather is either scraps from production cycles, part of ‘dead stock’ or low grade hides that would have been discarded anyway.   

See their products with personality here:  http://www.trmtab.com/

Triarchy Atelier 

'Jean manufacturing is not waterwise'

Speaking of jeans, it uses loads of water in its manufacturing process.   

Triarchy Atelier is also a fashion brand where new denim designs are made from vintage pieces.  They are proud of the fact that thousands of gallons of water are being saved because of their upcycling.   

They produce in Mexico City, where their factory can use mostly recycled water.   Their denim is made from Tencel, Lyocell, and cotton.

See some of their products here:  https://triarchy.com/pages/about

Bottletop Fashion 

Did you know that aluminum ring pulls can be upcycled too?

Bottletop Fashion is based in Brazil, Africa, and the UK. The company provides work for craftsmen who fashion bottle tops into gorgeous, luxury handbags. The bottle tops are sourced and cleaned in Brazil, where local artisans get to earn a much better living wage than the local industry average.  

Read more about how they see sustainability here: https://bottletop.org/

American Deadstock 

American Deadstock put a new spin on the re-use of old garments. They find unique vintage pieces from the 80s and 90s and present it to the consumer as totally throwback-ecstasy.  They use words like 'limited edition' and 'back in the day' to lure customers to their brand vision.

See some of their upcycled articles here: https://www.americandeadstock.com/

A-list interest in sustainability

In 2018, Cate Blanchett wore a gorgeous Armani Prive gown to a function in LA.   The great thing about it was that it was an 'old' dress, one that she was seen in back in 2014.  Bollywood actresses Deepika Padukone and Kangana Ranaut are doing the same thing. 

A-list celebrities are taking a stand against waste by 're-using' their old clothes. Repetition is starting not to be a sin anymore.  

It is excellent news for sustainability in the fashion industry.   It may not make a massive difference in the short run, but if it could change a mindset in the long run, a goal is attained.


The fashion revolution is working. Millennial consumers are increasingly demanding a change to save our planet, and these fashion brands are at the forefront of doing things right.

This article provided only a snapshot of sustainable fashion brands whose focus is upcycling.  There are many more with a creative focus.   

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