From Mainstream to the powerful art of Upcycling
From Mainstream fashion to the art of Upcycling and caring more for our planet. I hope you didn't miss me too much. This is the second article of the Foodie Blog. Hope you are enjoying this series. Don't forget to leave your comments below!
So, what is mainstream fashion?
We often talk about mainstream fashion but what does the word “mainstream” mean in the context of clothing? Mainstream Fashion literally means the “basics” we wear, bought from every-day clothes shops and that don’t attract attention. Mainstream Fashion originally comes from wanting to “blend in”, not “stand out” ! (Definitely not our vibe here)
To understand how fashion evolved, we have to go back to the 60s
In the 60s, "Fashion" was for the lucky few that could afford it. They wore Haute Couture from the likes of Chanel, Dior and we “the mass” - we couldn’t follow that expensive trend and we didn’t want to follow A trend. We were original in being mainstream.
In the 70s, that changed. There started to be a want to show brand logos off on our clothes, affirm the brand you were wearing proudly. However, that still wasn’t accessible to all - only those that could afford brand names could wear them.
Fast forward and we are heading head first into the clothes market globalisation. Get prices down to make fashion accessible to everyone, but de-facto lower the quality and produce much too much.
The positive: clothes became more affordable, fashion became more accessible and inclusive. The low: this was the start of Fast-Fashion and mainstream culture loved it (as much as we love fast-food too … and then feel guilty about it).
The down-fall of Fast-Fashion
The challenge was that as much as fashion became accessible, we faced a massive overproduction of clothes. A study (which is a bit horrific when you think of it) revealed that 80% of the garments that were binned were still in wearable condition. The working-conditions and the age of workers to sustain that mass production were also strongly questionable lacking basic ethical & moral guardrails. We wanted to produce too much, too fast, to a low quality.
One in three women feel that their clothes are outdated after less than three wears, resulting in a shocking 10,000 items of clothing being sent to landfill every 5 minutes, equivalent to £140 million every year.
Upcycling mindset - where do you come from?
Mainstream fashion was inclusive and that felt like a big step forward - reflecting a broader range of body types, identities, and showing off who you were. But even though this inclusivity was a step forward, fast-fashion was considered a step backwards and online communities started protesting against the globalisation of mainstream fashion and coming back to owning less and better. The number of second-hand shops grew massively - we wanted to be able to buy items at a lower price but not increase the production of more clothes! Communities wanted to bring more sustainability in how we consumed fashion.
The 2020’s and the dreaded pandemic showed a drastic evolution in our behaviour towards fashion. Mainstream, fast-fashion was criticised for its impact on the environment, the waste pollution it created, and the use of new resources such as water and energy to produce new materials. It became about not using virgin resources but reworking and repurposing the existing. Being ethical & sustainable became front of mind for all fashion brands. Creativity was spiked by the endless possibilities to make from what existed and transform the unwanted into one-of-a-kind fashion pieces. It changed the creative fashion process - thinking first about what materials were available to be used before the design and production process started . The incredible change was that this couldn’t be industrialised - it had to be slow and small and resulted in the creation of rare beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces.
Upcycling is born!
It is indeed quite the hot trend at the moment. Brands are struggling to do it perfectly. As no process is perfect, but the mindset and behaviour to do differently and better has really taken Fashion houses by storm and our day-to-day too. It’s cool to upcycle our own clothes or to find our mom/grandma’s clothing to make something out of it, and create such unique pieces.They reflect your history, your family’s story, and your individuality and creativity be it from a Fashion designer or the you, wearing that piece of clothing you made or bought for yourself!
Courtesy of Prada x Adidas - upcycling collection
"Adidas for Prada Re-Nylon collection reimagines luxury sportswear through a more sustainable lens. For the first time in the collaboration’s history, this collection includes ready-to-wear, accessories, and bags, as well as elevated takes on the adidas Forum High and Low silhouettes. Each piece has been made in Italy by Prada, composed of the brand’s signature, infinitely recyclable Re-Nylon fabric."
Courtesy of re-pete project
Unisex, one size fits all, the re-pete project is really a beautiful Sustainable brand - "every anorak is designed to be 100% recyclable - it can be broken down, rewoven and remade like new - never ending on landfill, actively preventing plastic from landing in our oceans."
Courtesy of AFFANDJAM
Sustainability can be about art and Aff & Jam have created their concept of wearable arts where each piece is hand printed or painted and absolutely unique. All is done consciously and sustainably, using pre-existing garments.
On Instagram, you can follow digital creators that explain how to be more sustainable, and there are some fun colourful accounts out there that show how you can be fashionable, sustainable & add some pops to your wardrobe. I follow Izzi as she resonates with me, my love of fashion and I learn so much from reading her posts.
She gives really great tips to loving fashion, colours and being sustainable in our choices. Love her vibe!
For BySo, I am taking one step at a time and slowly doing my part. I am in no means saying I am fully sustainable but I really am thinking production steps to do better. The main part is to take the time to design and create. I drop one collection a month and follow the "slow-fashion" way. When creating, we always minimise waste by using the fabric for smaller projects - from a scrunchie, or using scraps to do patchworks for my bags or even use remaining fabrics to do the handbag pouches. I had insane amounts of ribbon that I have been collecting since a younger age or that I was given as gifts, and I now use those to wrap my bags in. Everything can be used and re-used. This already helps create less waste.
I am also always on the hunt for existing materials and not using Virgin resources. I was lucky enough that Freya Simonne (Queen of Upcycling) had a studio clear out which enabled me to get my hands on insanely good fabric, but also that fellow creators started sending me their fabric scraps. When I look out for leather, I always try to find deadstock from great fashion houses and I am so happy give them another life.
It is a step each one of us can take, concerned for the future of our planet. And it is a step in the right direction. Upcycling has become the fashionable trend and thus… it has become mainstream.
This is a big subject dear Reader...
Let me know what you think in the comments below.