A small Estonian business partnered with a Bangladeshi textile factory to produce garments using leftover fabric. The resulting clothes have a significantly smaller environmental footprint than traditional mass-produced clothes and encourage consumers to remember that their consumption choices, even in regard to fashion, have an impact on the environment.
Reet Aus, Tallinn-based designer, holds a PhD in sustainable fashion design. She wrote her dissertation on the use of upcycling in fashion design. Her work on a documentary film on the environmental impacts of fast fashion led her to Bangladesh, where she directly witnessed the significant amount of wasted fabric resulting from the mass production of garments. Beximco, a Bangladeshi factory, allowed Reet Aus to conduct research on their premises and eventually agreed to partner with her and her team on the Upmade project.
The idea was to mass produce T-shirts using factory leftovers. This prevents tons of leftover fabric from ending in a landfill in addition to reducing the demand for new cotton fibers. Cotton crops not only require a particularly large amount of water (about 20 000 liters of water for 1kg of cotton), but they are also traditionally sprayed with a staggering amount of pesticides. On one hand, the textile industry generates a great quantity of leftover fabric, but on the other hand the industry continues to damage the environment to produce new cotton fibers. Upcycling leftover fabric is a logical answer to this illogical system.
AusDesign presented their “Up-Shirt” project on the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform, and their project was fully funded by November 2013. They raised a total of £12,158 on the internet.
The scope of the project has expanded, and the latest collection (Autumn/Winter 2014/2015) also features dresses, skirts, jeans and long-sleeved shirts in addition to the Up-shirt.
An interesting characteristic of the collection is that each garment carries a label with a unique calculation of the environmental impact of style. This lets customers know in a transparent way how sustainable their clothing item is. The latest collection saves 4500 litres of water and creates 2273 g less CO2 emission on average per garment.
Up-shirts and other upcycled garments by Reet Aus are currently available in 12 different stores in Estonia, Germany, Finland, France, Switzerland and in the UK. In addition, they can be purchased online on Trash-to-Trend.