Human ingenuity is at once productive and destructive. And recycling is an effort to allow creativity to continue without restriction. Depending on your perspective and long-term view of the world you may draw different conclusions, but this is mine and you are reading my writing.
Recycling is imperfect, 100% recyclable products are few and far between, with the standard operating policy hovering around downcycling and waste. Hence the imperfect resource chain. How do we fix the issue?
Passion and skill. Creators that will source materials and clothes before they reach destruction. Add a little love to an old shirt, cut pieces in half and mix-match, use scraps to build new items, and a series of varied alterations to upcycle clothing. Now that is designer.
Turn me inside out, cut at the seams and sew me back together - oops you forgot my eye. I absolutely adore clothing alterations, sustainable one-of-one works of art. The use and reuse of the utter abundance of fabric and clothing piling up. Wear pieces that stand out because no one has them, or has ever even seen them - 1 of 1.
Largely dependent on the supply you have and which base pieces are in the best condition. Say you have a stack of old denim (ranging in size, color, quality, and condition). You may choose to identify the best fitting pairs with durable construction then begin the process of deconstruction. Once separated or undone, you start introducing elements of the other jeans; pockets, strips of the denim, waistlines, or patches of the cloth. Sewing the destructed pairs or bases back into fully put-together designs. Obvious alterations may include attaching front pieces to back of the leg pieces from other pairs, or sewing a tuxedo stripe into the legs, or patching up a pair of ripped/distressed denim while added embellishment with the scrapes from the pieces that will not serve as base pairs (creating cargo pant pockets on the base pairs by using the pockets from the scrape jeans and more). More intricate alterations may be spontaneous or planned, two maybe multiple pieces together will spark an idea that begs to be completed, and from the scraps you can just make pant handles, patches, pouches, and face masks.
Depending on the batch size, the creative director and hands-on sewer are often the same individual. The alteration process is time-consuming and based on the amount of change and physical editing to be done, difficult, the problem is making pieces that were not built for each other fit and fear good on the body. And for this very reason, alterations are often subtle, or they take place on articles that can afford irregular shapes and contours (shirts, dresses, jackets, and hats).
This is my favorite part. Save the world, be a hero. Source old clothes and fabrics, make them new again, while removing them from the supply chain. Mix-match will work under these circumstances. Your local Goodwill may serve you well in finding clothing bases, and a series of other local vintage dealers may be the best place to find the pronounced pieces and fabrics.
- Reclaimed Fabric: Fabric on its way to the landfill or incinerator. The odd-yardage leftover at your local textile-store that has sat on the shelf for 2 years or the strange pattern that a pop-up vendor has never successfully unloaded. Regardless of where you find it, reclaimed means you found it just in time, basically you found the fabric in the pit before the larger scarier pit.
- Recycled Fabric: Reusing already applied materials, i.e., destructing clothes or fabrics that are not being utilized to their highest and best use, and using them in new items. Simply, take old cloth and make new clothes.
- Deadstock: Clothes or fabrics made in the past that never sold. Dead inventory. If no one buys this miscalculation then it will be thrown away. However, in the world of vintage clothing resellers, deadstock is the holy-grail. New yet vintage, unworn and old, a sad tale turned to triumph.
Describing an altered piece requires care. Also, how do you care for a piece made from multiple items; cold-wash, hand-dry, hot and bubbly…
Fashion-commerce, you're in the game now. Since altered pieces are one of one, the seller should address sizing, colors, fit (irregular or expected), materials used, and make note of any extra x-factor added to the new piece. Pictures, preferably on a person, this is my advice.
Find old rags, cut and sew the rags back together in interesting shapes, manners, and utility, sell rag-based creations for riches. Save the planet.
Shout out to 3womenco.com, they upcycle well.