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What is upcycling ?

We've all heard of recycling, we know it as the transformation of our trash & discarded objects into new materials. We all participate in it, whenever we sort out the packaging of the product we consume. But do we really know what happens afterwards ? Do we trust all the actors of the recycling chain to do what is right ? And can we evaluate the energy necessary to be lesser than the energy required to produce new objects from raw materials ? If you are not part of the recycling chain, how can you konw for sure ?

Upcycling takes a short cut. Instead of discarding broken products which are simply needing replacement of certain parts, instead of deconstructing something entirely into little pieces to be recycled, why no simply fix it, up-grade it, give it a new purpose right there and then ?

The word itself is associated with engineer Reiner Pilz, who is thought to have coined the term in 1994. Though in the fashion world, upcycling is often associated with Martin Margiela, who used flea market dresses and military stocks (and socks) as raw materials for his early collections, starting in 1988. Here is dress made from a plastic bag, a clear definition of upcycling, taking an everyday disposable object and turning it into a highly regarded garment, upgrading it on the hierarchy of human usage.

So why is upcycling exploding all of a sudden ?

The fashion giants, the fast fashion brands and their subtle marketing campaigns have filled our closets with cheaply made garments, short lasting items which will either go out of fashion really quickly, or wear out in a handful of uses. Add to this the 2020 pandemic induced introspection, and we've all suddenly realised that our homes are filled with soon-to-be garbage, un-needed clothes we never wear, questionably made products and other useless things.

The team behind Atelier Eveil Ludique has spent a lot of time in second hand shops, op shops and the likes. We know that fashion works as a cycle, and that what was in yesterday will come back in fashion sooner or later. So why not step ahead of the curve ? Recycling unsold stocks, donations, thrift finds, to give them a modern edge and put them back in this cycle will prevent trash to be sent to foreign destination to rot and pollute the land and oceans. It will prevent brand new clothes from being produced in horrendous conditions, whether for the workers or the raw materials. It's a double win : less trash, less production. Who said economic degrowth shouldn't be cool ?

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