Written by Joan Shuvell
Sustainability is the buzzword in the fashion world today, with the majority of designers adopting eco-friendly practices. Some designers are going one step further by using existing materials or garments and repurposing them to create new clothing and accessory designs. This was evident on the runways and displays during this month’s London Fashion Week. And on London’s high streets, shops like Rokit and Beyond Retro are essential for any visitor looking to purchase upcycled vintage item
Vin + Omi are known for using waste products like dead hydrangea heads and nettles from Prince Charles’ Highgrove estate to create new materials. For their Autumn/Winter 2020 collection they also repurposed large vinyl film posters into dresses and coats and have upcycled suits and knitwear from London tailor Mr Start to create new jackets, dresses and scarves.
3am Eternal was part of the British Fashion Council’s Positive Fashion exhibition during London Fashion Week. Using vintage clothes, designers Emily and Caitlin Price create new pieces by restyling and adding luxurious fabrics, sport-tech materials and embellishments. Womenswear designer Caitlin Price has joined forces with her sister, a vintage clothing business owner, Emily Price. Each item is a unique piece and available to buy from their online boutique. The London display was the brand’s second capsule collection at London Fashion Week.
Also part of the Positive Fashion exhibition was Joshua James Small’s first collection. Before launching his own label, Joshua worked with Richard Quinn and Gareth Pugh, designers who have had a clear influence. Joshua is a designer who creates concepts that inspire escapism through complex and precise pattern cutting and design. Conscious design practice is also key, with all components of each garment are listed on his website at date of release. He reclaims garments and fabric and uses dead-stock and supplied by various companies including Swarovski and renowned French lacemaker Sophie Hallette. All garments are designed and made in England and pieces are produced on a made-to-order basis.
Jewels by Alan Anderson uses vintage Swarovski jewels to create new designs. These pieces were in a fashion showcase at Canada House during London Fashion Week. Each piece is handcrafted with prong-setting vintage crystals and stones to create one-of-a-kind pieces. The jewellery is inspired by art deco designs and Hollywood’s golden era. Pieces have been worn by celebrities ranging from Elizabeth Taylor who owned an amethyst cuff which became part of the Christie’s auction of her collection, Katy Perry who wore a topaz brooch for L’Uomo Vogue, and Viola Davis, who donned a rose and olivine collar for the UK premiere of The Help.
Founded in Istanbul, DB Berdan is an edgy London-based streetwear and clubwear genderless brand by mother and daughter duo Beg Berdan and Deniz Berdan. The brand uses its own prints to tell stories, with a focus on social justice and underground cultures. They use eco-friendly materials like biodegradable hemp and all of the zips are made from blue plastic caps from water bottles. For their AW20 collection, they collaborated with ORTA, a Turkish company that recycles vintage denims and reclaimed cotton garments.
French designer Manon Planche, who showed with Ones to Watch during London Fashion Week, reworks vintage denim, creatively making use of all frayed threads, scraps and patchwork. The brand’s bold, printed and textured pieces are each one of a kind and have been worn by musicians Rita Ora and Kate Nash. Likewise, House of DK designer, Devesh Kothari up-cycles vintage denim pieces, along with champagne and wine bottle corks to create vibrant streetwear. British designer Adam Jones makes simple, non-seasonal, ready-to-wear pieces for men and women by upcycling vintage tea towels and blankets, as well as using beer mats and second-hand ribbons. Singer Neneh Cherry is a fan of this designer’s work.
Texan designer Julie McCullough’s AW20 collection is inspired by the culture of 1970s and 1980s and her fascination with vintage clothing from the 19th century. Many of the garments in this collection are family heirlooms dating back to the 1880s and have been integrated to the collection by McCullough, using her construction and design skills. Julie McCullough’s designs can be found online or at the sustainable Designer Emporium, Harkensback that she co-founded, in Dallas.
Spanish born designer Africa Hernandez is keen to preserve traditional crafts and colorful customs as part of cultural heritage and she also uses second-hand clothes and fabrics to create modern designs. She uses traditional craft techniques and works with local women in her neighborhood in Spain. All of her second-hand fabrics are sourced from car boot sales around Spain as well as from her parents’ house, where she found vintage brocade tablecloths, duvet covers and bedspreads.