Circularity and upcycling in sustainable fashion – WWD
After a year of canceled orders and production backlogs, excess stock and inventory issues are more apparent than ever. Coupled with growing attention to the impact of fashion industry waste, it’s clear that upcycling and circularity are not just one-off ideas, but processes that designers and brands need to implement. comprehensively and systemically.
That was the general message from designers Maria Cornejo, Christopher Raeburn and Nicole McLaughlin, who joined a panel at the Fairchild Media Group Sustainability Summit to discuss new upcycling ideas. The three creatives are leading the effort to formulate reinvigorated approaches to circularity that can be applied to brands and businesses, large and small.
For Cornejo, upcycling efforts through its Zero + Maria Cornejo line have gone hand in hand with staying local as much as possible. âWorking for bigger companies and seeing the amount of waste created, I’ve always thought it’s best to get creative with less and keep things as local as possible in order to avoid this,â said New York-based Cornejo who made his debut. its fall 2021 collection in February with an expansion of recycled materials, most of which came from nearby suppliers. âWhen you have toppings from all over the world and then you produce somewhere else and everything is shipped, it just doesn’t make sense. I think part of sustainability is keeping processes to a minimum. “
As a designer in the luxury market, Cornejo’s approach to upcycling has implications for the very definition of luxury and what is rare. She pointed out that a recycled wool coat from her own archives was one of the most valuable pieces in the fall 2021 collection, due to its limited supply and limited edition.
Raeburn has a long tradition of creating limited edition and recycled pieces for his eponymous brand and collaborative fashion studio in London, with the goal of reworking fabrics and clothing to create contemporary pieces, and it’s a philosophy he brought to Timberland since its inception. appointed its Global Creative Director in 2018. âWe have come to realize that we are already surrounded by too many people,â Raeburn said during the panel. âI started my own business with the idea of ââseeing waste as a resource. The word âwasteâ shouldn’t really exist in our world, it’s just stuff in the wrong place. “
With the goal of creating a net positive impact on the environment by 2030, he and Timberland are focusing on circular design and regenerative agriculture (the practice of giving the earth a rest so that it can absorb carbon , retain water and restore biodiversity). In the first instance, the brand explored ways to reuse and recycle various shoe components and other items to reinvent new products, following Raeburn’s own âRaemadeâ design concepts.
In the latter case, Timberland’s regenerative agriculture initiatives, while relatively new to the fashion industry, are likely to change the way companies approach circularity strategies in the future. Its partnerships include the Savory Institute, a nonprofit organization that has undertaken large-scale regeneration of the world’s prairies, and Other Half Processing, in which leather hides are sourced from regenerative ranches. âIt really comes down to what nature intended,â Raeburn said. “What is really encouraging is that it is not only applicable to cattle breeding, but also to rubber and cotton.” Again this week, Timberland announced a partnership with Terra Genesis International to build the world’s first regenerative rubber supply system for footwear, with production plans in 2023.
In a more fundamental, process-less approach, no designer has brought a more unique creative eye to the practice of upcycling than Nicole McLaughlin. The New York-based independent designer has partnered with brands such as Reebok and Crocs to reinvent sporting goods as fashion items with an emphasis on functionality.
âFor me, waste is an opportunity and the common thread of my work is to find different ways to use the surplus material, both in the fashion industry but also in the world, and in the things that you have at home. Over the past year or so I’ve found myself to be even more resourceful, and I think we can all figure that out, being able to use whatever we have. Everything’s fair, âsaid McLaughlin, who is developing a non-profit organization that helps provide resources to young designers, connecting big companies with schools and universities to provide dead and overstock materials. She is also building a series of workshops that will show other designers how to explore ways of working with unexpected materials in their own designs, which she hopes to eventually turn into a full-time summer program.
âMany times certain materials deter us from trying something more circular, because it’s not as simple, it’s not as easy as using cotton or recycled yarn,â she said. declared. âI love exploring the possibilities and the things we could do, in a fun way.â