When I tell people that my business is based around upcycled fashion, I recognise the look on their face straight away. The ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about’ look. Their face screws up slightly and goes blank, as they try to rack their brains for a possible meaning.
But now I am armed with a (pretty well scripted) response when I can sense someone is hearing the term up cycling for the first time. It goes something like this…
Upcycling in fashion is the process of using preloved clothing and transforming it into something new. This process creates value in the garment again, improves its longevity and prevents it from ending up as textile waste in a landfill.
Ten years ago, when I was studying fashion design, I didn’t know what up cycling was either. Back then, sustainable fashion wasn’t really a thing. Not once was it mentioned during my three years of study. We were taught to predict trends and design garments accordingly from scratch.
The way I officially stumbled across sustainable fashion and up cycling happened about six years ago and was quite unexpected. I was at a chicken farm for a new job and asked what happens there. Well, safe to say, I didn’t like the answer. Over the next few months, I absorbed every video, book and article I could find on the food industry. I realised that surely food isn’t the only thing that is being produced unethically and unsustainable. That led me to ask the question, where were my clothes come from and how are they made?
Again, I didn’t like the answers. I clearly already had a strong interest in fashion, and when I realised that there was an emerging sustainable and ethical fashion industry, and endless environmental and social problems that needed to be solved, it all just clicked for me. This is what I am supposed to be doing. This is what I am really passionate about.
And so with that, I went back to uni and got myself a business degree. I used this time to immerse myself in all things ethical- and sustainable-fashion related. I went to events, presentations, wrote reports, started a blog, and did a lot of internships. Literally, everything I could do to learn, I did it.
This learning process led me to define my real passion in the fashion industry, which was sustainability. The detrimental environmental effects are immense. The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter on the planet, after the oil industry. The fast fashion industry, which includes big chains such as Zara and H&M, has turned clothing into a cheap and disposable item, rather than something we cherish. Every year, Australians buy an average of 27 kilograms of clothing per person and then throw 23 kilograms of it out. That is a full suitcase of checked baggage per person going straight into the bin!
So, it is facts such as these that led me to upcycling clothing. I realised the world didn’t need more brand-new clothing. In my opinion, up cycling is the most sustainable and ethical form of fashion that exists. We already have an abundance of materials there ready to go. All of my garments are sourced from second-hand shops or are donated to me by friends, family and people from the community. There is always somebody who is doing a wardrobe clear out and looking to offload.
Project Selvage is also very close to being a zero-waste business. That means I don’t discard any fabric cut-offs, as I will later use them for trims and details on other garments. I even keep nearly all the cutoffs from the overlocker! I don’t want to waste anything and I constantly have new ideas about how I can utilise the materials I already have.
The process of upcycling itself is a rewarding and creative one. When I look at the clothing, I don’t see a garment, I see the fabric, the potential that has, how it can be cut and how it will fall on the body. I love playing around with different cuts and pairing contrasting colours and patterns. It is fun to see what works and what doesn’t. The end result is always a totally unique garment, something that no-one else will own.
At the end of the day, that is what fashion is really all about- having fun, playing with styles and expressing your own individuality.
Check out Project Selvage collection HERE