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  • Georgia Bates

Upcycling: The Key to Sustainable Fashion

Upcycling is a sustainable alternative to upgrading your wardrobe, whilst also tackling the dangerous fast fashion industry.

It is no new secret that fast fashion negatively impacts the environment. Landfills are piled high with unused clothing and 10% of the global carbon emissions derive from the fashion industry annually. In tackling this plight, the concept of ‘Upcycling’ has grown in popularity. Upcycling is the process of altering old, worn out or damaged garments, and transforming them into something completely new. INJECTION mag have spoken to 3 upcycling businesses that attempt to mitigate the damaging effects of fast fashion by upcycling garments into something entirely unique, without damaging the environment.


Reture is a fashion marketplace that features the world’s first fashion upcycling platform.

©Manon Planche: upcycling an old piece of Jeans for RETURE

What inspired the creation of ‘RETURE’?

We created RETURE with the goals of addressing two problems; on one hand

extending the life of garments and on the other, supporting and promoting the craft of

sustainably driven design talents. Through our platform, we connect consumers that have a surplus of garments with the surplus of brilliant design talent – leading to less clothing waste and a viable revenue stream for designers.

Why is upcycling the best way to stay fashionable without hurting the environment?

The upcycling process is performed by designers who are driven by the desire to create sustainable fashion. They work with local seamsters to create the new garment and any new materials that they add to the original piece are sourced from sustainable producers.

How do you ensure to always remain sustainable?

No company (or individual) can be 100% sustainable - our aim is not perfection, but

to strive to do better and learn from our community. Keep a focus on looking at the

source of what you purchase. When you buy something, ask yourself “what are the

basic materials?”, “how was it produced?”, “where was it produced?”, “who produced

it?”, and “when you do not need it any more, how will you dispose of it/what will the

environmental impact be?”. If you are aware of these aspects, you can minimise your impact on the environment.

What do you want to achieve in the battle against fast fashion?

We want to raise the awareness of the impact of fast fashion on the environment and

to show that there is an exciting, creative, and appealing alternative, whether it is

purchasing new clothing from producers who use sustainable materials and

processes, or whether it is upcycling a garment that you already possess. If we can

get the message out into the market and drive significant adoption of sustainable

purchasing and upcycling, we will feel that we have been successful.

Do you have a favourite piece of clothing that has been upcycled?

One of RETURE’s co-founders, Nina, upcycled her neighbour’s dress into a pair of

high-waisted trousers and a crop top. Her neighbour is in her mid-80s and passed

down a dress to Nina she herself wore in the 1970s. The designer who upcycled the

dress, Anna Schuster, revived it with a modern aesthetic and now that garment is

being worn and loved again! The beauty of upcycling is also how it connects people -

such as in this case Nina, the designer Anna, and her neighbour - but also preserves

memories and stories.

© RETURE: before and after images of the neighbours dress


UPINGARMS is a blog turned sustainable clothing business set up by Lucy Battersby in 2020. Lucy turns old unused items of clothing into trendy Y2K garments.

© Lucy: dress made out of deadstock magazine print material

What inspired the creation of UPINGARMS?

I started ‘Upingarms’ as a blog to discuss all things fashion and feminism. Clothing stores such as Pretty Little Thing, Boohoo, and even highstreets favourites like are perpetuating a fast fashion industry that not only utilises unethical practices but are also adding greatly to the unsustainable landfill and waste problem which is jeopardising our livelihoods. I felt this needed to change and wanted to start my blog to discuss the dangers of these practices.

Why do you think upcycling and recycling old fabrics is the best way to stay fashionable without hurting the environment?

There is something creative about upcycling. For me, I love seeing my visions come to life. Finding old pieces of clothing and fabrics and turning them into something completely unique and one of a kind is a satisfying and far more ethical practice than constantly rebuying clothes.

How do you ensure to always remain sustainable?

Remaining 100% sustainable isn’t possible however ensuring my upcycling impacts the environment as little as possible is how I ensure to remain sustainable. This is by creating clothing with deadstock fabrics and worn clothing.

What do you want to achieve in the battle against fast fashion?

I think education is what I want to achieve the most in the battle against fast fashion. Educating people how dangerous it is to the environment and how to shop second hand whilst remaining fashionable.

What is your favourite item that you have created with recycled materials?

I created my ‘third eye’ tops using stretchy deadstock fabric and UK manufactured fabrics. All the tops I made were hand-sewn and sold out quickly on Etsy which was a very proud moment for me!

© UPINGARMS: third eye tops


Based in Berlin, SOUP is a unisex fashion brand with a love for deconstructing and reusing materials. They operate as a 0 waste, sustainable production business which showcases unique designs that reflect their humour and love of finding things spontaneously.

© 1. Sara Lovering Truscott, 2. Rafael Bilio, 3. Jan Stolberg

What inspired the creation of ‘SOUP'?

3 friends that like to cut up their clothes, and hair.

Collecting things around Berlin.

Using up other people's leftovers.

Pass the parcel style design.

Why do you think upcycling is the best way to stay fashionable without hurting the environment?

Upcycling is about finding a solution to something that is already deemed as waste. An environment can be transformed into a garment, instead of being a damaging result of it. I think for people that are interested in upcycling but maybe don’t have any experience with this area, or a design background, it can be frustrating when on a low budget but want to wear sustainable brands. I would encourage looking out for making/ upcycling workshops to take part in and get some tips/ meet like minded people. We have hosted a few with Fashion Open Studio, and it’s cool to share ideas.

What are your thoughts on the fast fashion industry?

Polystyrene chip cone rubbing against a cardboard egg box

How do you ensure to always remain sustainable?

We make one-off items, and when we have a custom order we are open about the fact that a piece will never be identical to the original, but we will aim to get it as close as possible. Our process and techniques are consistent, but the materials vary because they are made from second hand items. A lot of the time this gets an exciting response and people are intrigued to see the outcome.

Do you have a favourite piece of clothing that has been upcycled?

I think the older pieces that have been re-worked into over time. They get updated every now and again when a designer is bored or out of materials. It’s fun seeing the transformation of these pieces over the years.

To discover more about these designers, head over to their Instagram or websites through the following links:





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