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.
Recycling has only a priori advantages. Creating with only what exists allows some to get rid of cumbersome stocks while others can take advantage of raw materials at low prices and available immediately.
Starting point: the trash can
However, most of the time, when engaging in this hunt for waste, the starting point of a collection remains the fabric roll. When creating Ecclo in 2018, Remy Renard knew he wanted to make a fashion garment with the least impact on the planet, but he didn’t know about the possibility of tapping into waste or dormant stock. “Coming across a shipment of 38 rolls of 1,908 meters of raw Made in France denim, just weathered in a few places, in a factory in the Vosges, I made the decision to create an eco-responsible and sustainable denim brand, never ordering the production of materials, but only using existing.” The difficulty for her stylist was to determine the mood-board and the first models with this raw and very thick fabric.
Usually, art directors imagine a silhouette, a mood, a posture; stylists transform these inspirations into sketches and pattern makers… into models. The sourcers will then look for materials that perfectly match the spirit of the art director, the design desired by the stylist and compatible with the measurements of the pattern maker. With dormant stocks and recycled materials, everything is turned upside down. ” Creating backwards, once the fabric is in hand, is indeed a challenge,” agrees Claire Alvernhe, the co-founder of Les Hirondelles.
A de facto originality
The approach is similar for the lingerie brand Ré /elle Paris. Without a doubt, it would not have taken this sharp and daring accent if Eugénie Puzzuoli and her associate Marjorie Dubois had not been forced to create in part with scraps. “Today, we are expected to make these mixtures and choices that we made at the beginning because we had no choice. The beautiful fir green silk married to a cream tulle finely embroidered by hand were found in two different sheds. We couldn’t have offered, or even imagined, this level of range, this quality and especially this mix if we commissioned our materials.”
Laetitia Ivanez, the creator of the women’s fashion brand Les Prairies de Paris, has also taken up this credo of a fairer and more respectful fashion. The designer draws from the stocks of luxury labels to give her customers access to the most beautiful materials at moderate prices. Weavers and brands, the height of the virtuous system, find an unexpected outlet for their leftovers, both responsible and supportive.
Start-ups that connect owners of unexploited fabrics with designers who are poor but full of ideas are flourishing. The French companies UpTrade or Upcybom for mass-produced fabrics, Sed Nove Studio and Adapta for leather scraps, gather raw materials in catalogs that are just as extensive as those of the usual fashion suppliers. La Réserve des Arts, in Vincennes, near Paris, also opens its doors to designers of all kinds, offering flexible and more rigid materials. Queen of the Raw in New York, or The Fabric Sales in England play the same role of link. All of them put in contact weavers invaded by dormant rolls and manufacturers, at the other end of the planet, engaged in “another fashion”.
In the resources.green catalog of the French Federation of Women’s Ready-to-Wear, they are legion. Moreover, according to Adeline Dargent, the Federation’s sustainable development manager, “A big push to create from recycled materials should take place. The obligation, at the European level, for a company that markets a garment, to indicate on its labels the percentage of recycled materials included in its product should encourage the use of more of them.. Because everyone knows that “While the number one purchase criterion is price, and style is a close second, consumers are increasingly sensitive to the sustainability of their fashion purchases. Some people are already demanding that their favorite brands comply with their new green requirements.
An inexhaustible source
This market is attracting more and more interest. But don’t panic, the dormant stocks and recycling bins look like bottomless pits. Despite the immense efforts of the fashion industry, from weavers to manufacturers, brands and designers, to calculate their use of raw materials as accurately as possible, the source does not dry up very quickly. They are certainly helped by high-tech tools, new generation cutting machines or placement optimization software. But accidents – a broken needle, a broken thread, poor color rendering, inaccurate pigment dosing, or simply lower-than-expected sales, an art director who changes his mind, a trend that doesn’t pan out – can never be ruled out. And since it is now forbidden to destroy unsold items and the reflex to give away old clothes for recycling is acquired, the fountain will not stop any time soon.