When waste becomes valuable resources - these brands close the cycle and transform old items into sustainable luxury items
Source & Copyright by Nespresso x Hublot
Author: House of Eden
- Reuse, recycle, repurpose: differences and potential
- Upcycling as a future model for a sustainable fashion industry
- Best of 2023: Top 6 brands that combine luxury and repurpose in their collections
With the urgent need for action in climate protection, increasing pressure from regulatory authorities and modern customer needs, a new value system is establishing itself in fashion. Brands and consumers are realizing that fast fashion is only associated with a temporary high, but with drastic environmental impacts. In contrast, luxury takes on a deeper meaning and must fulfill a purpose beyond quality, exclusivity and aesthetics. It must tell a story and have meaning for more than one generation - either by being passed on or by having a positive impact on sustainable development and hence the future well-being of the planet.
Brands implement this claim in different ways. They reduce the number of their annual collections, innovate new materials or launch initiatives to reduce CO2 emissions. Since it is of course most sustainable to produce as little new as possible, there is a particularly promising model: the circular economy. A regenerative system that minimizes the use of resources, the production of waste, and the wastage of energy, water and emissions by closing loops. This can be achieved, for example, through repair, reuse, recycling or upcycling.
The Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose Culture
Reuse, Recycle and Repurpose are well-known terms from the world of slow & sustainable fashion. However, they are often used synonymously and therefore not accurately. Reason enough to clean up briefly.
Reuse describes the reuse of clothing or objects, for example as an heirloom or as a pre-loved piece from a second-hand shop or a resale platform. The principle prevents waste from being created and useful things from ending up in landfills. Instead, they can be made available to those who want or need them. At the same time, it reduces air, water and soil pollution and the need for new natural resources. In this way, Reuse generates both social and sustainable added value.
In contrast to reuse, recycling is not reuse, but rather the reprocessing of an object into a new raw material. This means that clothing or items are not left in their original condition when recycled. Recycling them means subjecting them to a process that alters them so that they can be reused. Fishing nets can become bikinis, metal cans can become bags. Benefits include reducing waste, minimizing production impacts and resource conservation. Nevertheless, the recycling process causes some environmental pollution and energy waste.
Repurpose: Upcycling as a future fashion model
Repurpose means giving a piece of clothing or an object a new use - a new meaning. So, unlike recycling, they are reused in their original state for another purpose. Similar to the trap, the principle keeps waste away from landfills, protects water, soil and air from pollution and reduces the need for natural resources such as wood. During the pandemic, thanks to DIY videos on TikTok or YouTube, it has become a popular pastime that can give your home or closet a creative update.
Upcycling is a form of repurpose. The practice thrives on upgrading existing materials: It's not about creating something new, but rather about improving used or old items and often even turning them into unique pieces. This gives them a meaningful purpose, an intentional aesthetic, and automatically a longer life cycle while their value increases. That is why upcycling is seen as an important part of the circular economy. And as a counterpoint to the overproduction of fashion. Instead of throwing away used fashion, upcycling envisages using it as a basis for the manufacture of new products.
Gucci-Up: Inspiration for High-End Maisons
Because of upcycling's great potential to accelerate sustainable development, more and more brands are adopting it. And, as is so often the case, luxury brands position themselves as pioneers. The prime example: Gucci. As part of its Gucci Equilibrium, a comprehensive sustainability strategy, the brand launched Gucci-Up in 2018. The project promotes the recovery and creative reuse of material leftovers from production.
More specifically, Gucci-Up converts old or no longer usable materials, offcuts and fabric scraps from the production process into a valuable resource. Due to the high quality of materials such as leather or silk that luxury brands use, they can benefit greatly from upcycling and extend the life cycle of exclusive textiles.
These brands combine luxury with (re)purpose
A number of collections and collaborations have already proven this year that upcycling is not a short-lived trend, but has a firm place in the fashion world. These brands combine high fashion with future-proof values and production models:
- Maison Margiela
- Marine serre
- Loro Piana
- Lily Eve
- Proenza Schouler
- Nespresso x Hublot
Maison Margiela: Upcycling Pioneer
The Belgian high-end label Maison Margiela, which enjoys international fame for its avant-garde creations, is at the forefront of the fashion industry's repurpose culture. Founder and designer Martin Margiela was one of the first to integrate upcycling as an essential practice into his creation process. His radical approach: completely deconstructing garments in order to understand their elaboration and reassemble them. For his Artisanal collection, launched in 2022, Margiela transformed vintage clothing and found objects into hand-sewn unique pieces.
Source & Copyright by Maison Margiela
This year the brand launched an upcycling line, Recicla, which includes a range of limited edition accessories. This consists of recycled leather leftovers from other pieces in order to avoid as much waste as possible and to keep valuable materials in circulation. According to Maison Margiela, the collection "exemplifies the restorative power of historical attributes and items imbued with the soul of history and reflecting the grammar of today."
Marine Serre: Repurpose as modus operandi
French couture meets sportswear: The contemporary label Marine Serre has secured an important place in the fashion ecosystem with its signature moon pattern. And it revolutionizes it by incorporating cultural influences such as the urgent desire for fashion in harmony with climate protection into its designs. Circularity, defined as the ability to recycle and regenerate pre-existing materials, is the brand's modus operandi. That's why recycled and upcycled materials are at the heart of the design process; old products are reintegrated into a cyclical process that ensures transparency and resource protection.
Source & Copyright by Marine Serre
In concrete terms, this means that the employees of the brand sift through bags of clothes from Europe in order to sort and cut them. Around 50% of the collections consist of upcycled products, 92% of regenerative elements such as leftovers or recycled fibers. All 71 materials can be transparently tracked in an index on the official Marine Serre website.
Loro Piana: Quiet & Sustainable Luxury
Loro Piana is considered the symbol of quiet luxury. The Italian Maison stands for high quality textiles, unparalleled quality and restrained elegance. If you know, you know. At the beginning of the year, the brand was certified by the “Aura Blockchain Consortium”. This is a non-profit association of luxury brands founded in 2021 by LVMH, the Prada Group and Cartier. The mission: Invest in technology and innovative thinking to take the customer experience to new levels and create a positive future for the luxury industry. With the help of the NPO, Loro Piana enables its customers to be transparent about its sustainability efforts and traceability of selected products.
Source & Copyright by Loro Piana
The brand recently launched a new, sustainable collection: "Loro" - Re-Cashmere for all. This includes signature pieces made from a mixture of recycled and new, undyed cashmere. By using existing materials in a circular manner, the capsule collection, which is ageless and genderless, embodies the luxury industry's important commitment to the responsible use of resources.
Lily Eve: Pre-loved becomes re-loved
The slow fashion brand Lily Eve stands for handmade luxury jackets and sets. What's special: They consist of designer towels, mainly from Hermes. The founders, 23-year-old Parsons graduate Lily C and 86-year-old former womenswear designer Michael Wayne, obtain these mostly through resale platforms, auction houses and estate sellers.
Source & Copyright by Lily Eve
In order to meet high sustainability standards, every single thread of the fabrics is used, for example for bags or matching hats. This concept results in unique pieces that combine the classic elegance of traditional maisons like Hermes with modern accents. Designer brands should see Lily C as an inspiration to take advantage of such opportunities and create collaborations to reuse their deadstock, free up unwanted fabrics for new potential and thereby improve their environmental footprint.
Proenza Schouler: Archival fabrics at the heart of new collections
The New York-based fashion label Proenza Schouler effortlessly combines feminine and masculine elements - Lean Luxury à la perfection. Since 2021, however, it has not only scored with its contemporary design aesthetic, but also with sustainable initiatives. Entitled "The Power of Two," Mercedes Benz collaborated with Proenza Schouler in a quest to champion the sustainable future of fashion design through innovative collaborations. The capsule collection combined luxury, high-quality craftsmanship and a sustainable focus on design. The result: seven gender-neutral individual pieces designed with the needs of travelers in mind.
Source & Copyright by Proenza Schouler
Sustainable commitments followed, which were carried out without support. Including a capsule collection that repurposed signature pieces, archival fabrics and prints from early collections of the house. And the label's latest collection, the Core Collection, was made from environmentally friendly and existing materials under responsible manufacturing practices. In parallel, it is seasonal to reflect the commitment to sustainability.
Nespresso x Hublot: Harmony of Circular Economy and Luxury
Despite the contrasting product range, Nespresso and Hublot have a lot in common: their Swiss DNA and the same values such as innovation, quality and sustainability. Nespresso is B Corp certified and is redefining coffee enjoyment through its own sustainability program and regenerative agriculture. Hublot supports charities, including Conservation Collective, and uses advanced materials. So it's no wonder that the powerhouses got together and launched a joint product: The Big Bang Unico Nespresso Origin.
Source & Copyright by Nespresso x Hublot
The project also carries B Corp certification and is in line with Nespresso's commitment to continue the transition to a circular business model. Both the coffee grounds and the aluminum in the capsules are given a second product life cycle. In this case in the form of a clock. According to Guillaume Cunff, CEO of Nespresso, this collaboration represents the perfect harmony of circularity and luxury. "It shows that circular products can be just as elegant and sophisticated as conventional luxury products and it proves that it is possible to combine ecological values and aesthetic requirements without making compromises."
What's next: Repurposeful Luxury
Upcycling accelerates the sustainable development of fashion, lengthens life cycles and helps brands keep valuable resources in circulation. And without any loss of quality: Brands such as Loro Piana, Gucci or Marine Serre prove that modern luxury objects come from practice. Those that not only satisfy old luxury values such as high quality and aesthetics, but also modern ones such as durability, resource conservation and storytelling.