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Upcycling Plastic Bags into High Fashion
What can we learn from upcycle designers?

Jolene Fung, a London-based designer keen on sustainability has made some truly unique dresses by upcycling plastic. Her collection, Central Saint Martins is inspired from an unlikely source: vintage furniture. Combining the ultra-functional, streamlined aesthetics of mid-century design with the decadence of Christian Dior's post-war New Look style, Fung's graduate collection is far from rubbish. She's setting an example that other designers should surely follow, especially in the UK.

Upcycling isn't a new trend in fashion, though it has gained quite a bit of traction in recent time, with Pharrell Williams hopping on board upcycling plastic waste from oceans into new Adidas shoes. In this case however, Fung has upcycled plastic bags from Textile Recycling for Aid and International Development (TRAID for short). The program's goal is twofold in taking clothing donations: reducing carbon emissions and improving work conditions in European textile industries. Sweet.

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Make no mistake, upcycling is far from a gimmick in design and Fung is a master of her craft despite only recently graduating. When presenting the garments at an exhibit at her alma mater, she took cues from the hide-away construction that absolutely dominated design in the 1950s and '60s. No stitching needed in these genius upcycled designs - Fung devised a system of interlocking seams for the collection.

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“I have combined traditional pattern cutting skill with packaging technique to create my own way to construct the garments,” Fung says. “There is no sewing involved and everything is fully foldable.”

Upcycling in fashion is more than a trend: it's the future.
Upcycling plastic bags in small collections is a start in making change; urging big brands to embrace it is the endgame.

Recycling programs like TRAID stunt our wasteful habits but it's only slowing down damage, not preventing it. But what can be done exactly? I'll end this article with a quote by Michael Hobbes from his controversial article on ethical shopping. Read it on your lunch break, it's eye opening on the fight for waste reduction and better working conditions in fashion.

"We buy more clothes now, move through trends faster. In the olden days—the early ‘90s—brands produced two to four fashion cycles per year, big orders coordinated by season, planned months in advance. These days, there’s no such thing as cycles, only products."