Using materials or finished items that would have otherwise been discarded, upcycling is the latest way luxury brands are approaching sustainability.
USE THE EXISTING, Breathing stylish new life into fabric offcuts. “More than a simple project, #UseTheExisting is a state of mind,” says Ermenegildo Zegna artistic director Alessandro Sartori. “The main goal is to rework the fashion system to reduce our ecological footprint. At Zegna, we are trying to reuse resources to avoid wasting any materials in the production chain.”
This season, this state of mind has been translated into collections across the brand’s various lines – the Ermenegildo Zegna XXX runway collection, the main line and Z Zegna. To achieve the eventual goal of zero
waste, the Italian luxury brand takes pre- and post-consumer materials and reconditions and recovers fibres, threads
and fabrics that are subsequently used in the production of new garments. Starting from the Fall/Winter 2020 (FW20)
collections, Ermenegildo Zegna has also introduced the #UseTheExisting principle for its wool produced at the brand’s
Achill Farm in New South Wales. It’s a worthwhile way to upcycle the 30 per cent of raw materials that would otherwise be discarded in garment production.
EYE/LOEWE/NATURE, Exploring the transformative power of creativity.
Sustainability is at the heart of Loewe and its FW20 collection focuses specifically on upcycling. “I love the idea of repurposing something that already had a life. It reminds me of the transformative power of creativity,” says Loewe creative director Jonathan Anderson.
Combining reworked materials with Loewe’s signature knack for craft, the collection includes unique pieces that
hint at the past lives of the materials that have gone into them. Parkas, patch-pocket hooded shirts, cargo shorts and trousers are made from military tents. Existing checked flannel shirts were used to create new patchwork shirts. The theme is carried through to accessories. There’s a convertible bag made from camouflage army jackets and a tote created with vintage fleece jackets.
Sustainability also runs through the collection in other ways. For T-shirts, fleece jackets and workwear, the brand used organic or upcycled cotton derived from production waste, and the polyester in knit sweaters is from recycled plastic bottles. Now that’s how you close a production loop.
RE-NYLON, Utilitarian style and a hardy material come full circle.
In luxury, nylon is synonymous with Prada, the first luxury brand to make nylon bags and clothing cool in the ’90s. Now, everything has come full circle in more ways than one. For its latest Re-Nylon collection, the brand is using Econyl yarn – regenerated nylon derived from plastic waste such as fishing nets and fabric scraps.
The latest range is a follow-up to the first Re-Nylon capsule collection of six bags that was launched last year. All bases have been covered with the new range. Womenswear includes cocktail and casual dresses as well as cocoon coats with details – front pockets, buckles and webbing shoulder straps – inspired by the Prada backpack from 1984.
Naturally, there are accessories. The first Re-Nylon footwear sees Econyl used in Prada’s Monolith combat boots, among other shoe and sneaker styles. There are also hats, belts and bags ranging from backpacks to cross-body
styles. They carry the Prada Re-Nylon logo – a clever reworking of the brand’s triangular logo into a looping arrow
UPCYCLING IDEOLOGY, Extending the life cycle of materials and ideas.
The Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer (SS) 2021 collection by menswear creative director Virgil Abloh integrates the
concepts of upcycling and recycling in myriad ways. First, the upcycling was literal. Certain pieces of clothing and sneakers were made from overstock materials such as fabrics and leftover leather from past seasons. Some pieces were upcycled as part of Abloh’s “Homework” initiative, where he asked his team to create looks using repurposed materials.
There was also the figurative expression – in this case, the recycling of ideas. Some looks were repeated from previous seasons, while others were inspired by archival looks and Abloh’s personal history. Several runway looks included stuffed toys hanging from bags and jackets, a result of a mash-up of influences. There was a teddy bear
designed by former creative director Marc Jacobs for the SS 2005 collection, Billie Achilleos’ 2011 Maroquinaris Zoologicae animal sculptures made from Louis Vuitton small leather goods and the figurines and dolls of Ghana – where his parents were from. Everything old is new again.