As it stands today, the clothing industry is a horrible mess of overconsumption and irresponsible waste generation.
With fast fashion brands still taking the helm of the clothing world, it’s no wonder why so many of our clothes eventually go to waste.
However, recycled clothing brands and upcycled fashion have begun to get more popular as well. As more consumers become conscious of their practices, more clothing companies are filling in the supply gap for ethical fashion.
It’s high time that all of us put fast fashion behind us. This selection of upcycled clothing brands embodies creating a positive impact through the use of upcycled pieces.
Some of these suggestions are purely upcycled clothing brands, while some are recycled clothing brands with an upcycled collection. Nevertheless, these are the top upcycled clothing brands available.
RE/DONE is a luxury denim brand with the mission of creating sustainable and ethical fashion. As a digitally native brand, they have mastered the art of growing their vision through their online influence.
They started by upcycling and reconstructing Levi’s into luxury collectibles. Moreover, they’ve diverted an astonishing 225,850 clothing items from landfills through their upcycling efforts.
Re/Done’s upcycled collection predominantly consists of denim jeans. However, they also have graphic t-shirts, sweaters, leather jackets, button-downs, dresses, and even hats!
In the collection, they have different cuts and styles of denim. Some are plain, while others are a cacophony of indigo shades. They even have jeans with super cute embroidery patterns.
Since they use vintage denim, looking through their collection really gives off retro denim vibes. If vintage clothing is your cup of tea, definitely check out this brand.
The denim comes in light blue, medium blue, and dark blue shades. They’re available in various sizes, but it’s expected that no two pairs are ever entirely the same.
However, their prices are on the higher side. The jeans start at $320 and can go up to $650.
Materials & Sustainability
RE/DONE uses a variety of upcycled materials in their clothing. However, they don’t solely use upcycled components. Some of their products are recycled clothing and made with recycled raw materials.
Their upcycled clothing collection is predominantly composed of Levi’s vintage denim. The vintage clothing is taken apart and then reconstructed into retro silhouettes. They also use silk shirts, overdyed crewnecks, and sweaters.
The team individually selects the denim used in production from rag houses all over the US. Through their upcycling initiative, they’ve managed to save more than 158,300 pairs of jeans!
Because they upcycle, they don’t consume exorbitant amounts of water in production. Apart from the necessary sanitation practices, there is no water involved in the process. The brand estimates that they’ve saved around 2.5 million gallons of water just from upcycling Levi’s.
Their Mexico-based denim factory is Cradle To Cradle certified, cementing their commitment to a circular economy.
They aren’t carbon neutral, but they are taking steps to lower their footprint. As much as possible, the brand conducts localized production and shipping to lessen its carbon emissions. In 2020, they also began offsetting their shipments, both proactively and retroactively.
They use corn-based biodegradable bags for packaging, and their tags and labels are made from recycled and recyclable cardstock.
RE/DONE’s values are rooted in four main principles: product, process, people, and the planet. Their efforts are made in serious consideration of their impact on those four sectors.
It’s clear that the brand cares about their environmental impact, and we are glad to see this is also reflected in how they treat their workers.
More than half of the brand’s products are made locally in downtown Los Angeles. However, they also have partner factories in Mexico and Turkey. Their factory in Mexico is C2C certified, and the one in Turkey adheres to an environmental and social impact assessment tool.
All workers are under safe working conditions and make living wages. You can read more about their partner factories here.
Apart from their downtown Los Angeles warehouse, they’ve also recently opened one in Europe so they can accommodate their international customers.
They also give back to the community by donating to relevant causes such as BLM and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zero Waste Daniel-USA
Zero Waste Daniel is a zero waste lifestyle pioneer that many of you have probably heard of at one point or another.
The brand’s geometric patterns are crafted from pre-consumer fabrics taken in to be transformed into something new; truly the epitome of sustainable design.
One look at ZWD’s collection, and the first thing you’d think is ‘geometric.’ Most of the brand’s products have a signature geometric pattern that ties the brand style together.
But even so, no two items are ever alike. Each pair of shorts, t-shirt, or bag, is always made unique. The fabrics used are a mashup of discarded textiles given a new life.
Their ReRoll process ensures that the product, though one of a kind, still follows a similar format to what is promised on their website. They always use stretch fabrics in similar weights to stick to the original design as much as possible.
Their recent limited edition floral drops are bold, interesting pieces with 3D textile flowers attached to the clothes themselves. Wearing those pieces is definitely not for the faint of heart.
Suffice to say, ZWD clothes are undoubtedly statement pieces. They’re conversation starters, head-turners, and a wonderful addition to your sustainable closet.
While these may not be timeless staples (since they don’t really adhere to the idea of a classic), we love how they embody the designer’s creativity.
Materials & Sustainability
ZWD always uses new materials. New in the sense that their fabrics have never been worn. They mostly utilize pre-consumer fabrics like scraps, waste, and leftover textiles.
The brand utilizes surplus fabrics and scraps from New York’s garment industry while also using hard to recycle materials in their clothes. Even though they use various fabrics, they only use similar ones to create each design to retain the clothing’s function.
Moreover, they operate in a closed-loop system where all the scraps and extras during production are kept until they can be used again, eliminating production waste.
Through their efforts, around 1 pound of fabric waste is diverted from the landfills for each ZWD piece.
To further their goals, ZWD uses recycled and recyclable materials in all their packaging, shipping, and what they use in the office.
From production to admin work, the brand always stays true to its zero waste philosophy.
Zero Waste Daniel is adamant in their fight against textile waste. Unlike some of the other brands we feature on this list, their specialty is using pre-consumer fabrics, all of which have never been worn or used.
This allows them to pick up scraps from cutting room floors and breathe new life into these discarded materials.
All of their upcycled clothing is made in New York through local contractors. These collaborators set their own work hours and compensation, and ZWD does not provide further details regarding working conditions.
At ZWD, there is an emphasis on fashion that is gender-neutral and available for anyone and everyone.
Fade Out Label - Germany
A German brand in the sustainable fashion niche, Fade Out Label develops gender-neutral upcycled clothing made from deconstructed vintage pieces.
Their style focuses on a dump-to-hanger ethos with particular attention on recycled clothing and innovation in fashion.
Fade Out Label has numerous collections at any given time. They don’t follow the idea of limited seasonal releases in fashion. Instead, all their collections are permanent, with new items being added at each season.
The brand definitely has a unique approach to fashion. Most of their styles are intentionally oversized to retain adaptability towards different personalities and occasions.
Their Basic Collection consists predominantly of blue denim, but their core selection isn’t the only one available.
They also have several other collections in varying colors, styles, cuts, and themes. They even have one with bright, neon colors.
Their styles are definitely more fashion-forward than the regular collection. They stay true to their theme of loose, gender-neutral clothing with unique cuts and designs.
If you’re looking for a brand that offers incredibly unique upcycled pieces, and the price isn’t a concern, we highly recommend you buy your new clothes from Fade Out Label.
Materials & Sustainability
The brand mostly works with vintage denim in their collections. However, they may integrate other natural fabrics such as organic cotton and wool into the designs.
They use a variety of techniques to make the denim look fresh and one of a kind. For instance, they used a hand bleaching and dyeing method in their Black Commedia collection to emulate 90s street art in Berlin.
The vintage aspects of each design are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized pre-production.
There was no further information on where they source their vintage garments, but they indicate where the rest of the virgin materials come from. A significant chunk of their cotton is sourced from Berlin.
Fade Out Label handcrafts each of their designs, and each one is made to order. In making them by hand, the brand ensures that no two items are ever the same.
They don’t indicate where these pieces are made, so that’s one point they could improve on in the future.
They believe in the art of sustainable fashion, from design to production. The result of their beliefs is a collection of garments that don’t conform to current trends, styles, or fads but is instead an ode to personal expression.
Launched in 2018, Genia Evelina is a womenswear brand based in Montreal, Quebec. Named after the designer, Genia De Marco, the brand focuses on creating traditionally feminine silhouettes in its collections.
Genia Evelina is possibly the smallest out of all the clothing brands we featured. At present, they only have a couple of designs and styles in stock.
The brand’s collection exudes an ethereal and romantic aesthetic. Their designs are meant to fit a womenswear aesthetic but are by no means limited to just women!
They have tops, dresses, as well as some intimates. We especially love their bralettes with all their floral and spring motif.
The clothes themselves are one of a kind and come in various colorways. Each style comes in limited amounts, and the colors aren’t always available.
They stock up to a size 2XL.
Materials & Sustainability
Genia uses a variety of natural fibers, including hemp(here’s more information about hemp), peace silk, and cotton. However, these fabrics are mostly deadstock materials sourced from Montreal.
We’ll explain further our stance on deadstock clothing, so make sure to check that out as well.
The brand’s upcycled clothing mostly consists of the deadstock that’s available. Sometimes, there are no verifications on what the material actually is made of, which can be a downside for some.
For example, some of their lace materials are unknown fibers from deadstock. This seems pretty reasonable as the materials are just industry cut-offs after all.
Deadstock components actually benefit small brands like Genia because there aren’t any minimum amounts required for purchase.
However, if you prefer knowing about the specific component of the clothes, you might want to skip this brand.
Genia Evelina is a slow fashion brand. The designer herself makes all of the clothing in her home-based studio in Montreal.
Because of this, each piece is one of a kind, and there’s no issue about paying fair wages in factory conditions.
Her fashion label is heavily influenced by sustainability in fashion, and it’s obvious in the way she operates.
And since the brand produces on such a small scale, you can even request specific measurements! This way, you get truly one of a kind items tailor-suited to you.
Lara Intimates is a sustainable and inclusive women’s underwear brand stocking 100 sizes all across their collections!
Founded in 2017, it’s clear that the heart of the brand is to make sure eco friendly and sustainable lingerie and bras are available for everyone, regardless of size.
Lara Intimates’ collection is simple and straight to the point. They adopt a minimalist aesthetic, with the prime focus being on function and inclusivity.
Their bras are non-wired and offer optimum comfort and support.
While the designs themselves are still aesthetically pleasing, there are no unnecessary frills in the underwear. Their collection of bras and underwear range from full-on lounging bras to incredibly supportive bras that you can ‘run for the bus in.’
The brand boasts a decent selection of ethical underwear in the prettiest colors. From the simple and classic nude and black to bolder colors like fuchsia and cobalt, their collection is colorful and serene. Soft colors like aqua and olive are also available.
If you are looking for a more supportive bra without the discomfort of a wire, we highly recommend checking out their Eleni Support Bra. On the flip side, if you’re looking for a bra to lounge around in, Wren provides the perfect combination of support and comfort.
Their intimates are lightweight and super comfortable! Perfect for everyday wear.
Materials & Sustainability
Lara Intimates aren’t just made from upcycled fabric. Actually, they’re not really upcycled in the sense that some old piece of clothing was torn apart and given a new life. That would be quite challenging for a brand in the underwear industry.
Instead, their raw material reserve consists of recycled fabrics and deadstock.
Further in this article, we emphasize that recycled is not the same as upcycled. But using deadstock fabrics that would otherwise have gone to waste definitely fits the core of what it means to be upcycled.
However, deadstock fabrics aren’t the answer to all sustainability problems of the fashion industry. In fact, it causes quite a lot of problems on its own! There’s a section below on deadstock fabric for a better view of how this type of raw material sourcing isn’t perfect.
All Lara fabrics are made in the UK, and all of their excess cuttings are downcycled into carpet underlay or stuffing.
They also offset their carbon emissions by partnering with Carbon Neutral Britain, making Lara certified carbon neutral.
Lara’s ultimate goal is to push for higher quality production within the fashion industry. And their push for sustainable fashion doesn’t stop with the materials! They also place serious emphasis on the people aspect of sustainability efforts.
All Lara undies are made in their studio in Hackley, London. Brands that produce their own clothing immediately get plus points because they can control labor practices better, unlike so many fast fashion brands today.
Because everything happens in one area, Lara’s supply chain is simpler than the average clothing brand. They also generate fewer emissions since they don’t have to transport products to any factories or warehouses.
Their inclusivity in their sizes also applies to their employee base. They’re big fans of local production and focusing on employee well-being as part of their ethical business model.
Osom Brand - USA
From clothing to clothing, the goal of Osom Brand is to turn waste into treasure. The Oregon-based clothing company participates in the sustainable fashion industry by using their very own patented upcycled yarn.
Most of the items in Osom Brand’s collection are socks, but they also have a handful of apparel and household items.
Their color palette leans strongly towards navy and earth-like shades of green and gray. Despite this, their designs are heavily inspired by space themes, with designs named after constellations and galaxies.
Most of their socks are high cut and are great for providing optimum insulation and comfort.
Some of their socks, like the Orion, even have arch support and have a cushioned footbed. With these socks, your feet are sure to stay well ventilated and comfortable.
They don’t use any dyes in their yarn, so these socks are made in the best, most sustainable way possible.
If you’re looking for a cute pair of cozy socks, you should check them out. They also have a couple of apparel items that are perfect as loungewear.
Materials & Sustainability
What sets Osom Brand from any other brand on this list is that they use their own manufactured yarn, OSOMTEX®.
Their patented yarn is made using discarded textile waste. We’re still a bit on the fence whether they make truly upcycled clothing or if they’re a recycled clothing brand.
The process of making their clothes involves stripping reusable material down to their very roots, so it seems a bit more complicated than the typical upcycling of fabric.
However, they say their processes use no water, no dyes, and no harsh chemicals. Recycling will still usually involve some additional processing and harsh chemicals, so it’s great that they can create their yarn without making it a resource-intensive process.
Since the brand uses the terms upcycled and recycled seemingly interchangeably, it’s really up to our personal discretion.
Personally, since the yarn used isn’t made with too much fuss and natural resources, it’s still similar to the original reclaimed materials. Hence, it can be considered upcycled in our book.
Regardless, Osom doesn’t strictly use their yarn in production, and a minority of the product is made of different materials. Around 70% of the fabric and thread they use comes from old materials.
Their efforts in creating yarn from renewed materials are a testament to their commitment to a circular future. With yarn made from supply chain waste-streams, the company helps divert trash from landfills and keep your feet warm at the same time!
Osom Brand is committed to environmentally friendly and ethical manufacturing. They believe their dedication to the environment is related to the products they make and the people who make them.
The brand’s socks are ethically made in Guatemala. Throughout their supply chain, they work with suppliers who pay fair wages and offer a safe workplace to their employees.
The company is also a member of 1% for the planet, indicating that they donate at least 1% of their annual sales to environmental causes.
Fanfare - UK
Fanfare believes that quality and circularity are the core elements of good design. Launched in 2018, their goal is to tackle the waste crisis currently plaguing the fashion industry.
The brand’s mission is to revolutionize the way we make and consume clothing—away from the throwaway mindset of overconsumption towards a circular economy.
Fanfare’s Upcycled and Vintage collection mainly contains denim, but they also have cute cotton jumpers. They even have some excellent statement tops!
True to the nature of upcycled clothing, each piece is one of a kind and hand-made to order. Meaning, each order will result in a slightly different style than what you see on the product listing.
Many of their styles have painted designs that really add an extra pop to the denim/jacket/sweater.
Patchwork jeans are also a common sight. The denim is offered in varying cuts and styles, with most being vintage designs given a modern touch.
Their cotton statement top is a piece of recycled clothing that really catches the attention. With a volumized multi-pattern puff sleeve and an asymmetrical style, it’s definitely something worth adding to your closet.
They also have upcycled clothing with lovely embroidered patterns! If you like denim and embroidery together, we’re sure you’d love those styles.
Perhaps the best part about the entire upcycled clothing collection is that you can get your very own customized pair!
You can send your own pair of used jeans for them to upcycle. It’s a great way of making sure old clothes in your closet are given a fresh chance to shine.
You’ll be able to communicate with their design team regarding how you want your new jeans styled (within reason, of course). Alternatively, they can also use one of their vintage pieces to create the upcycled pair.
Materials & Sustainability
Fanfare uses plenty of materials to make their pieces. Though they aren’t a recycled clothing brand per see, some of their products are made from post-consumer recycled materials and deadstock.
Their upcycled pieces, in particular, make use of old garments redesigned for an updated look. They take (generally intact) used clothes and alter them accordingly.
For their jeans, they use vintage denim. Each pair is one of a kind and styled uniquely. Color and fit might vary with each order.
Circularity is the very core of Fanfare’s business. In giving old clothes a new life, they’re promoting a system that doesn’t just discard clothing when they go out of fashion but instead sees the beauty in recrafting an item.
In the spirit of this, they offer free repairs for their products. And if the time comes when an item is finally at the end of its life, the company will take responsibility and integrate it into their system as recycled clothing.
They also encourage proper clothing care, which you can read more about here.
Through water conserving methods, the label has saved close to 1.5 million liters of water. They have also cut their carbon footprint by using recycled fabrics.
All across their supply chains, Fanfare aims to create a positive impact, protecting not just the environment but also their employees through fair labor practices.
All of the brand’s products are made in the UK. The company works with creative women throughout their network of women-led businesses and suppliers.
Because products are made locally, Fanfare can exert a greater amount of quality control over their products.
Moreover, local production reduces their carbon footprint since products don’t have to be sent to multiple areas during production.
You can read more about the brand’s ethical code here.
The Fashion Industry and Textile Waste
It no longer comes as a surprise that the fashion industry is a bit of a mess. More and more people are aware of the dangers of fast fashion and how we can contribute to a better system.
But despite the prevalent knowledge of how destructive the fashion industry can be, a lot of people don’t understand the scope of what’s going on.
According to the EPA, the textile waste generated for 2018 was a staggering 17 million tons. And that’s just in the United States alone! Only about 15%, or 2.5 million tons, of this waste, was recycled .
In all the textiles generated from MSW (Municipal Solid Waste), clothing was the biggest culprit.
Globally, the amount of waste comes up to more than 90 million tons. If you have a tough time wrapping your head around those numbers, just imagine a dump truck full of clothes dropping in on landfills every single second.
The worst thing about it is that we’re showing no signs of stopping. Globally, around 80 billion new pieces of clothing are consumed annually . Even considering our increasing population, that is way more than we should be consuming.
Eventually, these pieces just end up as more waste in our landfills.
This is where reusing our clothing through upcycling becomes relevant. But upcycling clothing isn’t as simple as it seems.
Upcycled vs. Recycled Fabrics
Upcycled and recycled are two terms that are often interchanged in practice. However, they mean two different things. Upcycled clothing brands are not the same as recycled clothing brands.
Making recycled clothing usually involves a lengthier production process. Recycled materials are typically broken down again before being used as the raw material for a new product.
For example, recycled plastic bottles are cleaned, processed, and turned into chips before they’re useful as recycled polyester yarn. The resulting item from the recycled materials is what you would refer to as ‘recycled.’
On the flip side, upcycled refers to items that have been repurposed from a material that’s generally still in its original form.
Examples of this would be taking apart old clothing pieces and then using them to create a whole new design. Using deadstock or fabric scraps is also one way of upcycling.
The key element in upcycling is adding value to a material. With recycling, you’re using raw material and processing it to be something else. But with upcycling, you’re taking that material and adding value to it, all without starting from square one.
Upcycling materials use up fewer resources compared to recycling. Let’s take denim jeans as an example.
If you buy from a recycled clothing brand, you will most likely be getting a product that is made from recycled raw material. For denim jeans, that could be recycled cotton or recycled plastic bottles.
If you buy from a brand using upcycled materials, your denim jeans will come from discarded denim that was taken apart to serve a new purpose. This generally does not involve further processing other than cleaning the upcycled material.
DIY Upcycled Clothing
Upcycled clothing can be expensive. Most of them are handmade by the designers and artists themselves to create beautiful designs out of old fabric.
But the general public isn’t likely to afford designer prices on clothing. Fortunately, sustainable fashion doesn’t have a price tag, and you can get creative in how you choose to do your part for conscious fashion.
For one, you can “DIY” your own upcycled clothing! If you know how to sew, you’ve got the right skills for any upcycling. You can take apart old clothes from your closet and repurpose them into something fresh and new.
If you don’t know how to sew or mend clothes, there are many DIYs you can do with the items you have at home.
However, your local thrift stores are your best friend when shopping ethically. Buying preloved clothing items is a great way to style yourself without breaking the bank.
You can even do thrift flips! With a little creativity and vision, thrift items that you would’ve otherwise never worn can be turned into pieces of art.
In the end, ethical clothing production is expensive. It does not have to be as expensive as designer prices, but paying for workers’ living wages isn’t cheap.
If purchasing from the brands we featured isn’t an option for you, don’t worry. Truly sustainable and ethical fashion is rooted in using what you have without contributing to a greater environmental impact.
Is Upcycled Clothing Ethical?
In dealing with materials such as deadstock fabrics, upcycled clothing, deconstructed denim, and more, you have a serious issue.
Are they ethical, or are they just greenwashing? How can you tell the difference?
At first glance, brands that use upcycled clothing or deconstructed materials produce ethically made clothing from items that would have just gone to waste.
Some upcycled clothing items are truly works of art! Their designs are unique, and it’s what you’re paying a premium for.
But we have to address the fact that beautiful, artful clothing isn’t necessarily the spirit of upcycled clothing. In fact, upcycling is pretty simple!
We love seeing brands utilize different fabrics and textile waste, and we think it’s great that they do this! But for every brand that’s advocating for the environment, there is another that’s constantly greenwashing its customer base.
The Deal with Deadstock Fabric
Deadstock fabrics are just excess fabrics that will no longer be used by the mill/factory/fashion house/etc. They may also be fabrics that didn’t sell as expected or have minor damages. These usually get sent to the landfills unless they’re taken on by buyers at a discount.
But, it’s important to recognize that there’s a complex operation behind deadstock. In many cases, deadstock isn’t really deadstock because they were never going to the landfills anyway.
Excess production by fabric mills is often a strategic stocking choice. One that results in profit even if they’d have to sell their products at a lower profit margin.
In these cases, deadstock isn’t really helping anyone. It’s just perpetuating an endless cycle of overproduction.
Additionally, not all deadstock fabrics are inherently sustainable. Buying synthetic fabrics from a misleading deadstock market could prove to do more harm than good. Mills will continuously overproduce and overcompensate if they think people will buy the excess.
However, there are legitimate deadstock fabrics, like those with some damages. Since there’s no real, transparent way to determine which is which, there can be a ton of confusion surrounding deadstock fabrics.
Because of this, you’ll need to exert a little bit more effort in scrutinizing brands and ensuring they’re true to their word and not merely greenwashing their customers.
There you have it! A full guide on the best upcycled clothing brands in the sustainable fashion industry for conscious consumers. We’re glad to see that so many brands now offer a wide range of upcycled fashion products—a testament to how much sustainable fashion has grown.
Admittedly, there’s clearly still a gap in accessibility. Clothing marketed as sustainable and ethical still seems out of reach to the regular person.
Lastly, always remember that rethinking our consumption habits is the core of being conscious consumers and being mindful of our impact.
At its core, the idea behind upcycled clothing is to prevent something from ending up as waste by using giving it a new life.