Gone are the days when the act of upcycling clothing was solely associated with at-home DIY projects.
Upcycling is now quickly becoming a creative and sustainable response to the fashion industry’s growing waste crisis.
Ahead, discover 20 upcycled fashion brands that are repurposing old garments into covetable, one-of-a-kind items of clothing that are a far cry from anything made using a hot glue gun.
What Is Upcycled Clothing and Is It Sustainable?
Upcycling essentially involves the practice of repurposing post-consumer waste or worn-out pieces of textiles into fresh — and wearable — clothing styles. By diverting landfill-bound clothing, adding value, and placing them back into circulation, upcycling encourages the very idea of circular fashion. An idea that could potentially prevent waste and reinforce a sense of value in the consumer that is used to tossing away clothing after merely getting 7-10 wears out of them.
The past few seasons have even seen luxury designer brands like Balenciaga, Chloé, and Dolce & Gabbana dabbling with upcycled creations by giving it the high-fashion boost it needs. For its SS21 collection, the statement-making Balenciaga showcased several upcycled looks that included a fur coat composed of dangling shoelaces, and a sheer dress made using basketball net chains.
What Is Reworked Fashion?
Not too dissimilar from upcycling, reworked clothing is the process of reshaping, restructuring, and re-stitching entire garments or parts of them, mixed and meshed with off-cuts, vintage textiles, and trims to produce unique pieces.
In fact, studies have shown that clothing reuse activities can conserve between 90 to 95% of the energy needed to make new items, proving that repurposed clothes can significantly lower fashion’s carbon footprint.
Where to Find Upcycled Clothing Brands?
According to premium shopping app and fashion data insights platform Lyst, people are growing increasingly curious about upcycled clothing styles. Lyst reports that they’ve seen a 117% rise in demand for upcycled, recycled, repurposed and reworked items year on year.
To keep up with this increasing interest, we scoured the internet to find you 20 of the best upcycled clothing brands that are challenging throwaway culture by finding creative ways to repurpose vintage fashion and converting materials you wouldn’t have even dreamt of wearing, into glamorous, one-of-a-kind clothes that are worthy of being addressed as works of art.
Take a look at them below!
Note that the following includes affiliate links. As always all brands featured meet strict criteria for sustainability and are brands that we love — and that we think you’ll love too!
Fanfare is a brand that’s breathing new life into vintage pieces, deadstock fabrics and surplus clothing by transforming them into unique contemporary designs.
Not only do they create upcycled looks but also feature a range of vintage pieces, along with a recycled clothing section on their site that showcases an impressive lineup of handpainted, embroidered and unique patchwork details.
The best part? Starting at $100, you can send them one of your tired old pairs of denim jeans to upcycle it to your customization and liking.
“If you are expecting a perfect piece, these are not for you.” These are just a few words of caution you’re bound to come across while shopping on 4Kinship’s website. This Diné-owned upcycled and vintage brand prides itself on creating repurposed, imperfect pieces “that have a lot of soul” — as the brand so aptly describes it.
Upcycling materials like military parachutes and old curtains, along with a mix of preloved textile and vintage pieces, 4KINSHIP works with the indigenous folk of Dinétah (ancestral homeland of Navajo) and constantly supports projects that uplift their community.
At an amateur level, many of us have upcycled an old pair of jeans into denim cut-off shorts for the summer. After all, denim just happens to be one of the most democratic and resilient materials that tend to outlive most of the clothes in our wardrobes.
But don’t just take our word for it — take a look at what LA-based RE/DONE has achieved ever since it began partnering with heritage brands like Levi’s to upcycle vintage jeans into modern fits.
Since its affiliation with the timeless denim label in 2014, RE/DONE claims to have diverted over 158,000 pairs of vintage Levi’s from landfills by transforming them into unique collectables.
This chic French label was born out of the need to rescue and revive discarded hotel linens and textiles to create clothes which capture the symbolism of the hotel experience through meticulous handicrafts.
Hôtel Vetements creates its wearable heirloom pieces using forgotten hotel curtains, upholsteries, cotton sheets, linens and tablecloths that look like they could’ve easily come from a Wes Anderson movie.
In fact, the brand claims that some of their hotel linens like embroidered, silk curtains were sourced from the iconic Ritz Hôtel in Paris and date all the way back to the 1800s.
Another brand that’s found its treasure in furnishing textiles and home linens, Selina Sanders sources vintage materials like tea towels, curtains, quilts, blankets and other linens to create one-of-a-kind pieces that have details like detachable collars and reversible styles that offer you more than one way to wear them.
With trends like Cottagecore and coastal grandmother taking TikTok by a storm, these pieces are sure to make a statement — and not just this season, but for a lifetime to come.
6. E.L.V Denim
E.L.V Denim is a London-based label that upcycles unwanted post-consumer denim to create genderless, size-inclusive denim styles that are bound to age well in your wardrobes.
We love the fact that most of their denim jeans are vertically patched in contrasting washes at the legs to create unique styles that are sure to give you the illusion of a longer frame.
Moreover, by reusing existing denim materials, the brand reduces its water consumption by using 7 liters of water to wash its denim compared to a whopping 7,000 for every new pair of jeans made.
Using a wide variety of vintage quilts and bedsheets, Farewell Frances makes upcycled clothing look every bit as covetable and chic.
The brand’s range of quilted jackets appears worn-in yet cozy, which have a distinctive Cottagecore appeal to them. An aesthetic that is clearly visible in their styles, since the head designer, Carly Scheck claims to draw design inspiration from her favorite childhood movies and novels like Little Women, Heidi and Anne of Green Gables.
1/OFF® is a repurposed clothing brand that upcycles vintage designer pieces from the luxury fashion houses like Burberry, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel and many more to create one-of-a-kind pieces as its namesake appropriately suggests.
Consider it your gateway brand to owning part of a higher-end luxury label. If that doesn’t sound convincing enough, just take a look at this repurposed halter-neck wrap top that came from a Ralph Lauren men’s shirt.
Check out 1/OFF® (NL)
If you’re a streetwear fan, then Frankie Collective is the place you ought to be shopping for your hypebeast attire. The brand sources vintage pieces from cult brands like Nike, Champion, Adidas, and The North Face to create reworked pieces in ways you wouldn’t imagine were possible.
Expect to find wave color-blocked sweatpants assembled from 3 different vintage Nike sweaters to deceivingly well-constructed corsets and bustiers that don’t look as though they were reworked using a bunch of sweatshirts.
We get it, patchwork quilted clothes aren’t for everyone. And coming across a brand that patches its scraps together in visually harmonious patterns that are easy on the eyes can be hard. Fortunately, LOTI ticks all of these boxes and more with their stylish range of upcycled looks.
The bonus? This Peruvian label only reuses natural fibers like 100% cotton, alpaca, wool, and silk.
If you’re looking for a cult piece this summer then look no further than their Luz Silk Tie Bralette, that’s constructed from a combination of salvaged men’s silk ties.
11. 3 Women
3 Women is a women-founded and owned brand creating upcycled clothing that you won’t believe once belonged to tablecloths, pillow covers, feed sacks, and rice sacks. You’ll also find vintage treasures from L.L. Bean, reworked Levi’s 501s, along with some pieces dating back to the 70s and 80s.
As its namesake suggests, Picnicwear features a range of bright and cheerful summer-in-the-park-worthy clothes and accessories that are made using deadstock and vintage materials — primarily, upcycled towels!
If you’ve ever relished lounging in a towel robe after a relaxing shower, you know these terrycloth materials can instantly evoke a sense of lazy comfort. So, it’s only logical to see these colorful and bright towels turn into a range of covetable clothes for the summer.
13. Psychic Outlaw
You’d be hard-pressed to find a vintage upcycled clothing brand that treasures and transforms its scavenged scraps better than Psychic Outlaw. Using vintage quilts, bandanas, tablecloths, and old clothes, this cheerful brand creates trendy corsets, patchwork jackets and everything in between.
They even offer the option of supplying your own bandanas and tablecloths to create a personalised made-to-order outfit or accessory of your choice.
14. Chopova Lowena
This noteworthy UK-based brand is a celebration of Bulgarian folklore that’s seamlessly blended with sporty elements and a bold punk aesthetic. Just as their design aesthetic suggests, the brand is famous for repurposing recycled and deadstock materials like pillowcases and aprons to create their inimitable skirts and sportswear.
Their iconic pleated skirts instantly give off a punk-rock vibe and have been worn by the likes of Madonna and Dua Lipa, to name a few.
This iconic outdoor clothing and gear brand has always been ahead of the sustainable curve. So it came as no surprise when Patagonia launched its Worn Wear take-back program in 2019 where it collects pre-owned gear and clothing from it’s customers and re-crafts it into unique pieces that are ready for reuse.
Customers who trade in their old Patagonia wares are rewarded with store credit that’s determined by the condition of the item.
Having started out as a hip vintage denim store in the heart of London, Rokit launched its range of reworked fashion back in the late 80s, long before any of the younger millennials were even born.
To date, Rokit originals reworks secondhand and vintage clothes, uses deadstock materials, and manipulates just about anything old to create coveted limited edition pieces.
Since the brand started out as a vintage source for denim jeans, it comes as no wonder that some of the star pieces in their reworked collection include hand-dyed Levi’s jeans.
Check out Rokit (UK & US)
Known for her elevated everyday styles, Eileen Fisher has expanded her sustainable Initiatives to include a range of; Mended, Overdyed, Felted, and Resewn clothes. This in-store programme takes back pre-loved Eileen Fisher clothes that undergo repairs, only to go back into wearable circulation through the former clothing categories.
As a part of her circular initiative, the Resewn collection features pieces that have been deconstructed and redesigned into unique pieces that are a rare find.
18. Proche Studio
Your go-to source for pretty patchwork pieces unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, Proche Studio’s meticulously patched patterns are an absolute treat for your eyes.
A brand that hopes to educate and elevate its customers through its upcycled denim creations, Noorism takes apart old pairs of jeans to produce gorgeous pieces like this oversized blazer and patchwork embroidered sweater.
Founded by Noor Bchara, who also happens to be an adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, NYC, Noorism’s website offers a paid online course titled Upcycled Design Masterclass in the hopes to inspire and educate people on upcycling and repurposed design.
20. Rave Review
Rave Review is perhaps the only brand we’ve come across who have successfully minted a collection of upcycled NFTs titled ‘Cryptopanties’ that have digitally upcycled existing NFTs onto their artwork.
About The Author:
Jharna Pariani is a fashion writer and creative strategist whose work is rooted in honesty and deep observation of the world around her. When she isn’t busy penning down her thoughts, she moonlights as a video editor creating fashion and food reels on Instagram for several brands and influencers