Recycled materials as the core of the Upcycler
Upcycler’s core principles include the use of recycled materials and respect for materials as valuable resources. Why?
About a year ago, an idea that had been simmering for a longer time began to take shape. I strongly questioned my own consumption habits, what I did, and even my profession. I had just read a book by Greta Thunberg’s family Family and the planet in crisis. The message of the book made me properly stop at the questions that had circled in my mind. Greta rightly asks why are we not behaving as if we were in a crisis?
I realized that I was doing just that unreasonably; I know the crisis is at hand here and now and yet I will continue largely as before. I had to admit that I was part of the problem myself and my development was very cosmetic. Continuing would have been just that: awareness of the crisis, but not behaving accordingly.
In the spiral of overconsumption and overproduction
I wondered then what would be the way in which continuing in the fashion industry could be sustainable. Or was there such a thing at all?
The biggest problem in my thoughts revolved around volume. A constant, growing number of garments that is just bursting into landfills, burning and ever-increasing environmental problems.
Fast-changing trends and short-term products have their own chapters. In addition to these, the world is constantly making tons of garments to fill budget deficits and maximize market position. Nearly all of them no one even ends up buying.
However, even for these unnecessary garments, we use raw materials and resources, while causing an ecological disaster that has escalated from local handicaps to a global scale.
The fashion world and we humans in its vortex are in a situation where overconsumption and overproduction are feeding each other into a rising spiral.
Why make new material when it's old?
I came to the conclusion that one important step would be to blow the game across from the constant production of new material. Before producing any new garment material, we should strive to use existing ones. In other words: recycle. Avoid waste textiles prematurely and make efficient use of material that has already been produced. Question whether there is a real need for new material produced from the beginning, or whether a raw material or even a finished material could already exist?
As a designer, I understand that using a new material is much easier than using a recycled one. The production of a new material is also more straightforward, faster and more efficient in all its consumability than the conversion of mixed and uneven recycled materials into a quality product. However, the current pace is so unsustainable that we need to learn to decouple the new from production and start designing more sustainable clothes and manufacturing methods already in principle.
So what are recycled materials?
Recycled materials are very diverse and that really lies in the biggest challenge of using them on a larger scale. When we think of clothing recycling, we probably think of frequently used clothes. Currently, the best way to recycle used clothing is to recycle the garment as is. In other words: by selling or donating a garment in such a condition that it is ready for re-use. Other garments, broken, worn or stained, can be recycled for a negligible amount. Indeed, we often often have too rosy a view that our dilapidated, worn-out clothing would end up being put to good use. Indeed, most recycled materials are other than our used clothing. A major world-class development is the inclusion of currently used clothing in industrial production as a material.
If not used clothing, then what exactly are those recycled materials?
Industrial recycled materials
Recycled materials can be used in very different ways, depending on whether it is large-scale industrial factory work or handicrafts. There are opportunities to do very different things in industry and small-scale production. Both are needed so that the materials can only be used better in the future.
When you see the brand "RECYCLED" in the store, you are probably dealing with recycled polyester or cotton.
Did you know that the label "RECYCLED" means that garment contain recycled fiber, so it is not necessarily made entirely from recycled material? Often, other fibers are mixed with the recycled materials, and the proportion of the actual recycled materials can be, for example, 20%.
In the case of polyester, the raw material probably comes from recycled plastic bottles that are made into new polyester fiber. Yes, plastic bottles as a raw material are currently better utilized by industry than used polyester clothing.
In the production of recycled cotton, spinning and cutting waste generated in the clothing industry has probably been used, ie a small piece of fabric leftover.
Pure Waste Textiles manufactures 100% recycled material
In either case, the material is returned to its original elements, and the garment is produced from new, recycled yarn. The good thing about this is that new cotton is not grown or new oil is drilled for clothes (and that is a big plus!) The new yarn can also be used to produce a variety of different fabrics and thus different clothes.
The weaker side is that even this process is industrial factory work, and not automatically any "eco-process". These recycled fibers still have a long way to go to become a new garment.
However, it is very important for our entire ball that there are, use and develop recyclable materials suitable for industrial scale.
The material recycled in industrial production makes a long journey into a new garment.
Small production on terms of materials
When recycled materials are used in small-scale production, the material can be utilized in different ways than in industry. These can also complement each other, and fabrics left over from industrial production can be used by small operators for their own products. This is a good way to get your fabrics used effectively.
It is also possible to use textiles from elsewhere in the manufacture of clothing, for example by utilizing curtains, sheets or tablecloths. However, the collection of such textiles is demanding and without a separately built collection concept, these are usually sufficient quantities for individual pieces or very small series.
TAUKO Design has developed its own recycling concept for discarded textiles.
The good thing is that then the fabrics are already ready, which means that a new garment is created with lighter resources. At the same time, we work strictly on the terms of existing materials: only what is available can be used and the quality of the materials determines what can be made from it. Here, of course, lies the charm of the recycled!
Finished material can be used in small-scale production, but the uses are more limited.
Its own chapter is the use of used clothes in a new garment. When you want to use the fabrics of used clothes as they are, you are already on the verge of very demanding artisan work. The quality of the fabrics obtained from the garments, the size and shape of the pieces place constraints on the new garment. However, there are creative professionals and craftsmen who master this difficult sport as well.
The above is combined by the fact that the materials have direct access to the subsequent manufacturing steps. Processing, sorting and editing is laborious, but in many cases, for example, as a local craft. In this way, manufacturing is also lighter in terms of its environmental impact.
Recycling or green washing?
Of course, the use of recycled materials does not solve the problem of over-consumption and over-production. Even if we use recycled materials, the problem for the whole industry will not go away if the total production volume continues to grow at the same time and more and more are sold under the guise of recycling.
The same, of course, applies to Upcycler. That's why Upcycler's range only includes products that are designed to last a long time, replace many transient trends with their versatility, and have a significant ecological advantage over the mainstream. Instead of producing textile waste, the goal is to reduce waste and total production. This is the only way I feel I can work in the fashion industry and stand behind Upcycler.
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