The recycling of materials has become a major issue for fashion designers. Putting materials that were not known to be used back into the circuit is giving rise to a new economic model, while at the same time generating a new way of creating.
The fashion industry is actively looking for solutions to make its production chain greener. A simple way soon appeared. It has even jumped to the eyes of all, young independent designers, as well as big actors of the textile clothing or luxury majors. An obvious one. While the planet is hot, covered with tons of clothes that humans (especially in the West) throw away on a daily basis, it is enough to bend down and serve in the mountains of waste and pick in the garbage to find the fabrics of tomorrow’s clothes. And create the new fashion.
The Anglo-Saxons call them “dead stocks” or “leftovers”. In the language of Molière, romance is the order of the day: we speak of “sleeping stocks”… which are only waiting for a Prince Charming to wake them up. Young creators allergic to waste and penniless propose to take on this role. Major luxury brands have also tried to revalue their own wealth, first and foremost Chanel. For the 2021 cruise collection, presented just after the first big lockdown in June 2020, the number of references had been tightened and only fabrics, leathers, feathers, sequins or laces that were already on the shelves of the design studios had been used.
The most prominent designer of the moment, Marine Serre, is a champion of upcycling. In French, we should say “recyclage améliorant” or “sur-cyclage”. She is a sensation on the catwalks of Paris Fashion Week with ultra sexy suits made from American aviation surplus, evening gowns made from parachute fabrics, jackets in the sheets of SNCF agents’ uniforms. Sold at a high price in the most beautiful boutiques around the world, his fashion sets the record straight and gives a new definition to luxury. A luxury product is rare because it is unique, made by a designer with a singular vision for a single person… And for good reason, with scraps, dormant stocks or Flea Market, no two products are alike.
Pinko even appointed a sustainable design director in September 2020. Patrick Mc Dowell’s first collection, the first designer in fashion history to hold this position, is called Re-imagine. It was designed from stocks of fabrics that were sleeping in the company’s hangars, gave birth to a large series. So much so that today, the Italian premium ready-to-wear brand is planning to push its eco-designed line to the front line. Large chains, which are known to have difficulty moving and changing, are also attracted by the reactivity promised by the reuse of rolls of fabric already on site.
Could this be a first step towards relocation? Bizzbee and Tape à L’œil, encouraged by Le Plateau Fertile in Roubaix, are starting to transform their offcuts into accessories, bags and pouches, while Jules and Brice are going to make jeans in France with offcuts to limit costs. For its part, Promod is even setting up coupon sales. At the other end of the spectrum, among the young independent designers, it is there that it is most active to set up a new fashion system.
Correcting defects in the new
To make new, desirable and eco-responsible with old, rejected, unloved: this is what Yolande Klaassen proposes with Revive Clothing. “Each product is made from an already existing garment, unsold in the stores.” Long before the anti-waste and circular economy law (Agec) came into effect, the designer was inviting herself into the backrooms. “There is too much waste in the textile-clothing industry. Of course, there may be buying mistakes, trends that don’t hold up, colors that don’t turn out very well. But I have witnessed huge productions made on purpose to be sold during sales, with the possibility of being off the mark.”
Analyzing the reasons for these commercial failures and proposing solutions so that they don’t end up in destockers or in rags (since it is forbidden to burn unsold goods since January 2021) is its new mission. “We reinvent the garment to correct a flaw or to transform an element that the consumer didn’t like. Here, it’s a look that was too masculine for a military shirt where all you had to do was remove the pocket flaps and add lace edging to make it pop. Here, an overly warm and impractical jumpsuit that just needed to be cut in half to find a taker.”
Alexandre Iris and Gauthier Desandre Navarre even invite since June to discover ” Cent Neuf, the brand that injects new blood into your wardrobe. Without nine.” They promise to reinvent the second hand. Cent Neuf is the first brand to develop, thanks to an artistic director, its own 100% second-hand collections. ” Cent Neuf does not create anything, except a new approach to fashion,” promise the two fashion specialists, known for having worked for Ba&Sh in particular.
Penniless but full of ideas
The preference for dormant stocks is not necessarily an outright choice. But it is becoming a way to differentiate oneself, all the more obvious for young brands that are starting out. ” We can’t arrive in this sector today by reproducing the deleterious patterns of the past,” says the duo of creators of Salut Beauté Sarah Nimir and Mathilde Gindre. Great consecration: they made their appearance in the temple of fashion, the place to be when one embraces the career of fashion designer: the Printemps, boulevard Haussmann, in Paris, rolled out the red carpet to their eco-responsible approach to fashion – and their style of course.
They note that “The range of materials available for recycling is so wide that we can afford to get our first choice of fabric, the one we had imagined in our sketches. We can even work like any design studio by first designing and then looking for the fabric that would look best. If by chance a great fabric was only available in 30 yards, the challenge is to find the best complement to finalize the silhouette.