Upcycled, Elevated: Cut-and-Sew Clothes Are Getting the Luxury Treatment
From vintage designer terrycloth to revamped denim, the latest wave of upcycled clothing is more luxurious than crafty. Here's what you need to know about the rising trend.
With the rise of sustainability comes an increase in the cool factor of certain accompanying actions: Hand-me-downs or secondhand pieces become vintage or thrifted, sharing with neighbors becomes the gifting economy, and upcycled clothing becomes, well, something of a luxury. Gone are the days of slapdash stitching and the homespun air formerly associated with remade items—these days, upcycled brands aim to honor vintage materials by creating high-quality clothing and accessories that enhance any modern wardrobe.
“I think upcycled fashion can be thought of as amateur, crafty, poor quality, etc.—and honestly, a lot of the upcycling out there is in poor taste and not very well made—but there are also quite a few designers doing really beautiful work and it seems like that is starting to shift to be more the norm,” says Genevieve Dodge, co-founder of Opal Pineapple, a burgeoning brand that transforms vintage designer towels into ‘70s-inspired sets, hats, and jackets. “I think if you're going to cut up a beautiful vintage textile, whether it’s a quilt, towel, sheet, etc, you should really be thoughtful about it and try to make it something better than what it was.”
The contemporary remade renaissance saw its origins in 2014 with the founding of Re/Done and its reimagined denim. Suddenly, rather than hunting through thrift stores for vintage Levi’s, customers could purchase the iconic jeans in reinvented fits guaranteed to flatter, and with a cut just as individual as an entirely old-school pair (each pair of Re/Done denim is unique). These days, the brand offers Re/Done Hanes, too, with updated takes on the classic cotton tee. And the space is growing (though thoughtfully) with brands like E.L.V. Denim, Hôtel Vetements, and more continuing the call for creative luxury.
Photos: Opal Pineapple
But with this attention to fit, quality, and detail comes a price (literally): Sets from Opal Pineapple run from $325 to $785 depending on the design and rarity of the fabric, while a pair of Re/Done Levi’s starts at $350, Re/Done Hanes, $90. (Fans of thrifting will note that Re/Done’s prices are a far cry from the $5 to $30 range of similar items purchased in true vintage condition.)
For her part, Dodge sources materials online, primarily through eBay and Etsy—and the cost of the materials dictates her own price points. Dodge favors 1970s YSL towels, as well as Pierre Cardin for Fieldcrest, and adds that most towels from the ‘60s and ‘70s boast amazing quality and design. “I’m drawn to geometric patterns mostly,” she says. “Obviously, the condition, size, and price dictate what I end up purchasing too. The designer towels can be insanely expensive, especially in the last six months or so, and I've had to raise my prices as a result.”
Perhaps the prices are part of the revolution. To rival the current fashion landscape, sustainable style will have to have footing in both the accessible and aspirational camps, the better to please consumers of all sorts. And, regardless of the cost or carry-off, using existing materials rather than increasing the demand for new production is a net environmental win.
“I think it's amazing how wearing vintage and thrifting instead of shopping fast fashion has become so mainstream,” says Dodge. “Maybe one day as sustainable fashion awareness continues to grow, brands like Shein and Lula Roe will be a thing of the past.”
Feature Photo: Jaimee Keyer
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