Is Upcycling a secret ingredient in sustainable fashion?

Palak Surana
5 min readNov 27, 2020

What do you do with your worn-out clothes?

I’m pretty sure it’s either thrown in the trash or donated.

But it ultimately goes to the landfills!

Why can’t a defect become an effect?

The fashion industry is quite known for its massive waste problem; this big business is of the largest polluters globally. According to sources, nearly 3/5 of all clothing ends up in landfills within a year of being produced.

With the pandemic, the issue of fashion waste is getting worsen day by day. The thrift industry is overwhelmed with the first-time surge in donations as a result of “quarantine cleanout frenzy” due to the stay-at-home time during the lockdown period. Everybody has cleaned their wardrobe, and the number of clothes considered as discard is uncountable. Also, one more reason adds up that people have gained weight sitting at home and this might even lead to the discarding of clothes as they do not fit anymore. Here comes the cause of fabric pollution, because people discard them in a wrong way.

Thrift stores are also there, but people usually don’t buy much specially due to hygiene issue and hence it again lands up in the landfills and causes a problem.

Because of fast fashion, people are always looking for innovative ways to keep their wardrobe updated. As consumers start realizing the shocking effects of fast fashion, they will begin looking for unique ideas to change their wardrobe in a friendly manner.

Upcycled apparel comes to the rescue which can be a part of this revolution which helps people make meaningful choices with their clothing while appreciating the history of the industry as well as the after-effects of consuming apparel.

With the purpose of creating new clothes from old clothes, extending their life cycle, the project works in its particular time and space. The world of upcycling has blasted in the past few years, and there are a plethora of inspiring, unique designs available.

In an interview Emma Watson told this, if you buy something, do you think you will wear it 30 times? and “If you can,”. Emma says, “That is how you know it is a sustainable purchase.”

Even before hitting the shelves of the store, around 20–30% of fabrics are discarded during the process of seaming in piece cutting. Although there are many efficient garment factories that have automated processes but still at least 20–30% is wasted.

Upcycling uses either pre-consumer waste, post-consumer waste, or both. The former takes place while the product is manufactured using leftover pieces, while post-consumer waste means using garments that the user doesn’t need or want anymore, or have defects.


Even before the consumer uses the clothing, various textile waste such as fabric scraps, cutting, and overstock is produced during the designing and production stage. Although, around 30% is sold to the designers, fashion students, and crafters. So, this shows the intensity of textile waste.


Now, after wearing the clothing, it is either donated or trashed. Due to the disposable fashion culture, we buy 60% more clothes than 10 years ago. Also, this leads to more wastage as people throw clothes quite easily. 1in every 2 people throw clothes in the trash which contributes to textile or fashion waste.


Keep an eye on what you wear and the environment, learning how to upcycle clothes allows you to showcase your style and keep up with the latest trends without hurting the planet.

More and more consumers are showing a desire for an alternative, creative fashion that is made in limited numbers and is eco-friendly too. The rise of these upcycled garments not only contribute to sustainable shopping as a whole, but also serve as art pieces, cultural commentary, and a sense of connection with the garment. Upcycling old clothes is such a great step towards corrupting fast fashion.

With the rise of sustainable fashion, upcycling clothes business start-ups are in a rise in India. There are numerous start-ups focusing upon it. Upcycling clothing brands including the startups will be covered in the upcoming blog.


Upcycling means the process of transforming unwanted clothing products and textile waste into something of new design and higher value. When about a quarter of the clothing is damaged beyond repair, that’s when it’s upcycled. Designers take apart those patches of fabric (not damaged) and upcycle them into a new collection. Although it can be a time consuming and artisanal process, the results are almost always one-of-a-kind pieces of art. Hence, the reason it is of a higher value!

The key difference between upcycled clothing and recycled clothing is that upcycled clothing brands use whole pieces of existing garments to create something new and useful, but with recycling, materials must be broken down before they can be reproduced and reused efficiently.

Upcycling is definitely not a new term as many of us practice it but don’t realise it. For instance, long jeans pants when torn turned into shorts. So, why not use it every time when any clothing piece is of no use. A great contribution towards the environment wastage control.

To conclude, upcycling is a step towards sustainable fashion as it helps to reduce waste in the first place, and secondly helps to maintain fashionability. Upcycling clothing is definitely going to grab the markets, but first, as individuals, we need to practice it. With the availability of resources, we can definitely choose sustainable clothing. Upcycling should be practiced by each of us as our contribution to sustainable fashion. Upcycling should literally become part and parcel of our clothing life. So, what are you waiting for? Grab your old outfit, upcycle it with your creativity and flaunt it to the world.

Also, do share this blog with your fashionable friends and family members to let them know more about Upcycling.

Stay tuned! Stay fashioned!

PS: New blog coming soon on Recycling clothing options.