Fashionably upcycled

Updated: Aug 19, 2019, 08:07 IST | Karishma Kuenzang

With the likes of Kendell Jenner making fashion statements with their upcycled jeans, among other pre-loved apparel, here's how you can give your old clothes a fresh lease of life

Fashionably upcycled
Kendell Jenner took a larger pair of jeans, reversed it and added a zip at the back

One of the latest trends in the now-mushro­o­ming sustainable fa­shion market has been the upcycling of clothes. And with celebrities like Kendall Jenner making a statement with revamped jeans, DIY wardrobe is becoming quite the rage.

The best way to venture into upcycling, if you want to do it yourself, is by starting with an old pair of jeans. Add a pop of colour to it, stitch on small patches or logos, or get digital printing done on them. The easiest thing to do is to stitch a patch on it — you can do this at home. If you want more detailing, opt for traditional embroidery, but in measure — both of which designer Samant Chauhan had recently done while upcycling denim jeans.

Kalki Koechlin upcycled a Benarasi saree into a gown. Pic/Getty Images
Kalki Koechlin upcycled a Benarasi saree into a gown. Pic/Getty Images

"With upcycling, we focus on making the garment special for customers. And it is also a great way of expressing yourself. So, we try to stick to off-white options and use cotton dhaage so that the garments can be dyed or tweaked by customers," explains Chauhan. Layering options by replacing the lining with an inner piece works best. You can pair the inner with a jacket to make it into a completely new outfit.

The next level of upcycling is to tear the fabric apart into linear strips and weave them back into another fabric. This is an approach that designer Bhaavya Goenka has been practising since 2017 by using industrial and manufacturing waste. Ar­m­ed with a degree in textile design, her tryst with upcycling was organic — she upcycled her mother's handwoven shawl with pattu work on it, into a jacket for herself.

Samant Chauhan recently upcycled jeans with patchwork

"It will work only if you like DIY projects. You need to have a certain affinity for crafting your own clothes or styling your outfits. We've grown up watching our grandmothers buy fabric and stitch their own clothes. So, upcycling isn't a new concept," she explains. And it stems from what she used to do when her jeans got holes in them. "Mend them using coloured thread — pick grey or even bright pink that gives it a different texture, besides adding a dash of colour," she shares.

But Kendell's upcycled denims are difficult to replicate by yourself as the pattern is completely different, Chauhan shares. "Placing the zip at the back is difficult as a heavy stitch will be used to do that, which means no fa­bric will be left be­hind. You can attach it as a patch but this may end up spoiling the fabric," he advises.

Samant Chauhan recently upcycled jeans with patchwork
Samant Chauhan recently upcycled jeans with patchwork

Dos and don'ts

  • Don't change the basic construction of the garment. Think of it as an apartment — you can change the balcony and the kitchen, but don't destroy the entire building. Add new colours but don't mess with the base structure.
  • You can use fabric you are throwing away to form patches to cover the holes in your clothes.
  • Lighter fabrics like rayon or lightweight cotton work better as the base fabric, while heavier fabrics are ideal for patchwork, and can be woven in.
  • Make sure you know the origin and culture of the material that you are collecting because that's one faux pas that you don't want to make.

    Bhaavya Goenka turned a shawl into a jacket

Bhaavya Goenka turned a shawl into a jacket

Bhaavya Goenka

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