Upcycling fashion for mass production

Tracy Cassidy, Sara L. C. Han

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In the UK more than 2 million tonnes of clothing and textiles are purchased each year of which around only one-eighth will be recycled. It was reported that the British clothing and textiles sector alone creates a staggering 3.1 million tonnes of CO2, some 2 million tonnes of wastage plus an additional 70 million tonnes of wastewater per annum, with 1.5 million tonnes of textile waste ending up in landfill (Minney 2011: 162). Waste and surplus materials from the textiles and garment manufacturing industries and unsold stock from the fashion retail sector, contribute to the landfill problem (Waste Online 2010). While attempts are made by companies to redistribute unwanted clothing from the UK and other developed countries to developing countries, mainly through charity organisations, landfill is still a prime site for much of the textile waste. However, a large majority of the clothes discarded are still wearable and often in very good condition (Farrant et al. 2010: 726). Wayne Hemmingway, designer and co-founder of Vintage Festival, a three day event at Southside, London (UK), where vintage clothing and accessories and other personal and homeware products are resold, regards the solution to the problem of textile waste as lying in the attitude towards fashion as being in constant change, whereby if the goal of fashion was to be fun and non-competitive then fashion consumption could be very different and its subsequent waste more manageable (Minney 2011: 51). Fletcher also pinpointed the necessity for the industry as a whole to ‘rethink the role and value of fashion product’ (Fletcher 2008: 108). This chapter explores the relatively newly coined ‘upcycling’ process as a viable recycling method for re-using what would otherwise be textile waste; and compares the upcycling process with a typical fashion production process model. The barriers to be overcome by the fashion industry are identified should an upcycling process be adopted for mass fashion production, which has already been earmarked as an ‘emerging industry’ (Williams 2011). The chapter concludes with some solution suggestions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSustainability in Fashion and Textiles
Subtitle of host publicationValues, Design, Production and Consumption
EditorsMiguel Angel Gardetti, Ana Laura Torres
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781351277600
ISBN (Print)9781909493612 , 9781906093785
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


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