“One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” High-profile fashion designers and companies are beginning to take this phrase literally. Trends of tiger prints and biker shorts may be left in the year 2020, but upcycled clothing is a promising next style, ready to walk the runway and into stores in 2021.
Upcycling is the process of taking old, damaged or worn-out materials and turning them into new pieces. Although this process has been around for a while, along with thrifting, designers like Cassandra Evanow and companies like Nike are no longer hiding the imperfections. Instead, they are making the upcycled aesthetic the primary look of the pieces.
Cassandra Evanow is the designer dressing Sza and Bella Hadid in 14th-century-esque corsets. Not only is she bringing back an old feminine garment, but she’s doing it in a sustainable fashion (get it?). Aside from the steel framework of the pieces, the corsets are made of upcycled jerseys and shirts found from men’s sports teams.
When Evanow moved to LA at the age of 18 to attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, she was overwhelmed by the costs of tuition and rent, not leaving her much money to buy clothes. She ditched the name brands and decided to create her own unique pieces for weekend outings. From there, upcycled one-offs became her signature. “I hate waste so much…it’s just a wavelength that I’m on now,” said Evanow in a recent Input interview. “It makes me feel magic, being able to generate something out of nothing is a really powerful feeling.”
Evanow’s corsets and other upcycled pieces feature logo-ed fabrics from Nike, Footlocker, and the NBA, showcasing the fact that these pieces are made from reused materials.
To tackle Nike’s “Move to Zero” initiative, it released an ongoing “Space-Hippie” collection of shoes made from trash and factory scraps. The Space hippie 01, 02, 03, and 04 are all made so no excess material ends up in landfills. The “Space Yarn” creating the shape of the shoe is made from recycled bottles, using up to 85 percent of the original material. The midsoles consist of a unique speckled material that resembles the accumulation of factory scraps. Nike marketed the collection with a “This is Trash” tagline, romanticizing the shoe’s imperfections and trash-like look.
Even the build of the shoebox is made sustainably. The shoes are sent out in one box instead of separately packaged. The box itself is made out of repurposed material and printed with plant-based ink. These shoes have the lowest carbon footprint of any sneaker, making the trackable score lower than any other shoe Nike has produced.
The swoosh didn’t stop after Space Hippie. Its newest release, the Cosmic Unity, will debut on February 26th, 2021, for $120, as part of the Move to Zero initiative. The basketball shoe is made of 25 percent recycled material by weight and features the similar speckled crater-foam midsoles seen in the Space Hippie collection. Although this shoe is the most aesthetically pleasing silhouette of the initiative, it still holds upcycled characteristics with unique imperfections in the design.
Tested by NBA Laker star Anthony Davis and WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson, the shoe optimizes performance on the court as well as performance on the planet, creating the first upcycled basketball shoe by Nike. “I think these will translate well for me…they are a lightweight shoe that I love. I love a lightweight shoe. You need that out here on the court, especially in our league.” said A’ja Wilson in a recent interview with Madeforthew. “And also, I think it’s just good for the environment, I think that is key – with the materials that they used, because we want to live on this earth for a long time and we want to take care of it. So those were two real big factors for me. And I am excited to be one of many to play in this shoe.”
“It’s not about perfection, it’s about progress” states Nike’s website. It’s time to view recycling through a different lens in 2021 as the upcycled aesthetic becomes more common.