Up-cycling is the recycling of a material into a product of higher quality. Between 80-90% of a product’s total life cycle impact is determined by at the initial product design. Design outside of the box – up-cycle your way to sustainable bliss.


 By Orsola De Castro

Founder of From Somewhere and Co-Founder/Curator of Estethica

“Up-cycling is a design solution to an environmental problem.”

I’ve been using up-cycling design techniques in my sustainable fashion brand for over 15 years and am now aptly and happily known as ‘The rubbish collector extraordinaire’. Up-cycling is an innovative method of recycling textile waste into a product of higher quality for example by up-cycling textile swatches, production off-cuts and end-of-roll textiles to create higher quality garments. Up-cycling ultimately slows down unnecessary virgin textile production. Up-cycling is an artisanal approach to textile waste that requires creativity without any industrial intervention and it is an innovative, design-led and inherently environmentally-friendly solution to textile waste. Up-cycling needs to be differentiated from recycling or down-cycling, where textiles are recycled but often into a product of lower quality.

Today, the fashion industry is increasingly over-producing garments and textiles. What is being thrown away is often beautiful and usable for designers who can approach such materials in a creative way. I believe that about 80 percent of textiles being thrown away are reusable.

Mine and my partner Filippo Ricci´s pioneering sustainable fashion brand, From Somewhere, has been up-cycling textile waste since 1997. All of our collections are made using luxury pre-consumer textile waste, such as proofs, swatches, production off-cuts and end-of-rolls, hence I’m known as ‘The rubbish collector extraordinaire’. Our garments are reproducible in large numbers whilst still retaining elements of the unique. For example, our groundbreaking collaboration with Speedo, the world’s leading swimsuit brand, represented up-cycling in its highest form. Here we created a limited-edition capsule collection using up-cycled surplus material from Speedo’s ‘LZR Racer’ swimsuit, which we then retailed in London’s high-end department store, Selfridges. We also designed a best-selling up-cycled collection for Tesco Clothing by up-cycling Tesco’s very own leftover textile stock. These collections are just two examples that demonstrate that up-cycling can be commercially viable and available to the mass market.


My Top Tips to up-cycling design

1. Always know what is on offer before you start designing

2. Follow your own waste stream

3. No scrap is too small

4. Ugly can be beautiful too

5. Finishing is the key to good design


Watch our up-cycling design tutorial by Orsola de Castro here.

Up-cycling Fashion Designers

Christopher Raeburn 
From Somewhere
Luis Valenzuela
Maison Martin Margiela
Worn Again