Rescuing discarded materials like parachutes, military blankets, shower curtains, wood chips and festival tents from the dumpster, eco-minded designers create couture that ranges from the cute and totally wearable to the artistic and avant-garde. Whether it’s ready for the rack or meant for the runway only, these 13 collections of upcycled fashion definitely make surprising and innovative use of items others see only as trash.
Recycled Packaging by Karishma Shahani
Designer Karishma Shahani distills the colorful essence of her home country of India into a stunning collection of upcycled fashion. “Yatra” includes recycled plastic packaging mixed with natural fabrics like cotton, silk, linen and muslin that were dip-dyed using plants from a local market.
Dresses from Paraglider Sails by Valerie Pache
New life is breathed into old, retired paraglider sails by Valerie Pache, a French designer who creates colorful and quirky upcycled garments. Pache takes this material – which she gets for free – and crafts it into dresses, jackets, accessories and even wedding gowns. “People are very surprised to see dresses in this material, especially paragliders who have no idea what can be done to give a second life to their sails. And that seems to make them really happy.”
Festival Tents into Costumes and Rain Coats
Long after they have sheltered thousands of music lovers at Denmark’s Roskilde Festival, event tents can shelter fashionistas from the rain in the form of highly unusual upcycled clothing. Designer Lisa Våglund was inspired to use the material after seeing how much trash is left behind each year.
Discarded Wood Chips into Scaled Couture
In the hands of designer Stefanie Nieuwenhuys, wood chips rescued from the floor of a university workshop transform into reptilian scales in soft shades of beige. Nieuwenhuys used this inspiration to create a collection of fascinating ‘biomimetic’ corsets, evening dresses, pants and accessories, working with a bio-waste firm to obtain discarded pieces of plywood which she laser-cuts into shape. The designer told eco fashion website Ecouterre that the scales created a “simulacra of nature, without discarding nature’s inherent harmonies.”
Reclaimed Underwear into ‘Knickers Dress’
Would you wear a dress made of old panties? Designer Antoine Peters gathered up dozens of undergarments and sewed them all up into this kooky experiment in upcycled fashion. The panties are interwoven, and some of the tags are still showing; the designer tried to use every component so that it would be a zero-waste project.
Amour Sans Anguish Salvaged & Recycled Fashion
Designer Tawny Holt of Amour Sans Anguish crafts salvaged and recycled materials into cute, feminine, highly wearable garments. Each piece is entirely one-of-a-kind. Check out all of the lovely designs – including custom-made bridesmaid dresses! – at the Amour Sans Anguish Etsy shop.
Parachute Netting into Camouflage Garments
Who would have thought that parachute netting could be so pretty? British designer Debbi Little teamed up with AO Textiles to create a line of lovely dresses and accessories made from discarded Ministry of Defense parachute netting.
Recycled Trash Shoe – by Christian Louboutin
Would you pay over $1,000 for trash? How about if that trash were recycled into signature red-soled pumps by Christian Louboutin? The famed shoe designer created the “Ecotrash” slingback heel that incorporates trash from the designer’s dumpster including sequins, fabric swatches, thread and postage stamps. Unfortunately the heels also include python skin (a huge eco no-no) and toxic PVC.
Intricate Gowns Made of Recycled Paper
Decked out in Lia Griffith’s incredibly intricate paper couture, you might feel like you’re in a fairy tale, an experience that would only be amplified if you were to be caught in the rain. But Paper Couture’s creations, made of recycled paper, are more wearable art for runways and photo shoots than a viable option for weddings and proms.
Totally Wearable Upcycled Fashion by Goodone
Now this is upcycled fashion that the average woman would love to wear, for prices she can afford. British retailer Goodone released a “Basics” line made from reclaimed, deadstock and end-of-roll fabrics that would otherwise have been discarded. The collection includes casual garments with figure-flattering shapes made of jersey and lightweight knits.
Military Materials to Warm Winter Fashion
Looking at this collection by designer Christopher Raeburn, you’d never guess that it was crafted from unusual reclaimed military materials like wool blankets and parachutes. For his Fall/Winter 2011 collection, Raeburn rescued these materials and transformed them into outerwear that doesn’t scream ‘trash’.
Wacky Raincoats Made of Recycled Plastic
Why yes, that is an old shower curtain on my head, thank you for noticing. Designer Jane Bowler created these rather unusual high-fashion raincoats out of recycled and reclaimed plastics using stitch-free processes like heat-forming.
“Plastic Fantastic” by Tomaas
Okay, so these ones aren’t exactly wearable, but they’re gorgeous all the same. Fashion photographer Tomaas has captured a series of images in which models are decked out in common plastic items like water bottles and forks. Because of the styling, the plastic somehow looks much more high-fashion than it really is.