The Unbelievable Value of Upcycling Clothes 7 Ways: On Trend


Nationally, 11 million pieces of clothing are thrown away each year: This week’s On Trend is a nod to Sass Brown’s new book, ReFashioned: Cutting-Edge Clothing From Upcycled Materials, featuring 46 designers who are using pre- or post-consumer fabric waste to create beautiful fashion. 

Fabric production takes a ton of resources and energy to produce, so getting the most out of every piece makes sense. While it’s true that one person’s rubbish is another [ecologically-inclined, outside-the-box, responsible person]’s treasure, the magic spin these designers put their found materials through are so transforming you’d never be able to tell someone once wanted to toss it. This is upcycling at its best. 


1. Denim denim Rug by Nudie Jeans

Using only 100% organic cotton, and ensuring “anyone who participates in manufacturing” is paid a living wage, Nudie Jeans is a rockstar company. But as their denim denim rug shows, they care about the end of lifecycle process too. These rugs are made from old, worn out Nudie denim. The discarded jeans are first cut into strips, then handwoven using indigo dyed thread (the same thread they use in their jeans).

Nudie Jeans, $599


2. Anna by From Somewhere*

From Somewhere is one of the best known fashion labels using pre-consumer textile waste. They’re most famous for their Speedo dresses made from the Olympian swimsuit LZR Racer Elite’s overstock material after regulations banned the style. Their more recent collaboration with TopShop and Reclaim to Wear transformed surplus stock into new garments that were sold in limited editions. This shirt is a beautiful example of how From Somewhere reclaims fabric waste from high end fashion brands “bringing quality and craftsmanship to ‘exquisite rubbish.'”

From Somewhere, 220 GBP


3. Let’s Ketchup Card by Bloomin

This card is adorable, a little quirky, and a great way to connect with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. How is this upcycling? This card is not only made with 100% post-consumer paper (really, who needs to new when you can reuse), it’s also filled with wildflower seeds! Truly the card that keeps on giving.

Bloomin, $3.50


4. Reclaimed Wood Cookbook Stand by Stacy Borocz

A beautiful (practical!) addition to any rustic kitchen, this butcher block cookbook stand will excuse your cookbooks from being held open with an olive oil bottle. To make each piece, Stacy Borocz travels around Europe reclaiming timber and upcycles them into home decor pieces. This single piece of sturdy wood could have be gathered some any old building, and each tells a different story.

Uncommon Goods, $115


5. Baby Chicken Earrings by PearlReef

Who would have thought something as grimy and used up as bike innertubes could be turned into adorable chick earrings?! Each set of upcycled earrings are custom made, and you can even work with the designer and order a specialized pair. (Unfortunately, baby chicks not included.)

Etsy, $15


6. Division Tunic by Piece x Piece*

Piece x Piece “is a personal response to the overwhelming amount of waste produced by the fashion industry. Every year, thousands of sample fabric swatches are discarded each season and up until now it has been difficult to imagine a useful purpose for them.” And yet, Elizabeth Brunner, founder and head designer of the label, has masterfully filled that gap with her work, addressing the problem piece by piece. Each garment is made in San Francisco in limited quantities.

Piece x Piece, $290

 7. Nippleocalypse Dress by Rachel Freire* (main article image) 

This designer designer transforms a true waste product, cow nipples (!), into something truly romantic.


Want more On Trend? See Also:

On Trend: Dark and Tan – The Smartly Sexy Fall 2013 Color Trends

Covering Up With Ethical and Organic Leggings: On Trend 

Personality Pops With Patterned Pants: On Trend

Classic Trends in Dichromatic Black and White Sophistication: On Trend


images from the brands, collage by Juliette Donatelli with featured design by Rachel Freire*.

*Designers featured in Sass Brown’s new book

keep in touch with Juliette on twitter @spadesandsiLK


Juliette Donatelli

Working in the field of sustainability for over seven years, Juliette is passionate about its intersection within the fashion industry. Juliette began studying ecological conservation, and led consumer awareness campaigns around the world from water usage in southern California, riparian restoration in South Africa, food distribution in Paris and bison habitat in the Great Plains. She has launched her passion--consumerism and sustainability--into a place where it hits home--fashion. Juliette is the founder and editor-in-chief of, Director of Sustainability at Manufacture NY, and loves to read, dance, swim and enjoy the occasional glass of champagne.