Recycling, Upcycling, Reworking = New Life

“You’re telling me someone else wore this before you?”

Have you ever walked into a second-hand or thrift shop, mindlessly ambitiously thumbing through bins or racks of previously loved, thrown away clothes and come across a piece that’s stopped you dead in your tracks? I mean, the type of shirt, jacket, denim, or accessory that blesses you and makes you wonder, “Why’s this not in a closet or in someone’s rotation?! Wow…”

I’ve spent countless hours (collaboratively weeks or months, by this point), scouring innumerable shops, online stores, donation groups, searching for articles of clothing that still had some life in them or had the right amount of character to pique my interest enough to cop, just to put my own creative touches on them.

In a time where sustainability and recycling is no longer a foreign concept and the stigma of “hand-me-downs” has all but disappeared, the idea of upcycling (re-working castaway material from its current form to another) and putting your own stamp on an piece of clothing, previously deemed unworthy or past trend by a former owner, is a viable form of expression.

I’ve been a huge proponent of reuse of clothing, as fast fashion business models from H&M, Zara, and a slew of online businesses, have sapped a ridiculous amount of earthly resources for their textiles: overwhelming cotton use, unreal water consumption, copious amounts of waste material, pollution, and other environmentally non-friendly production requirements have shown a massively negative impact on the globe.

Nearly every discarded t-shirt, pre-loved and ruined pair of quality denim, slightly worn jacket, etc., can be revived with care, some creative ideas, some hours spent, and the idea that personal style doesn’t need to ride a wave of hype or touch upon trend so closely that consumerism and feeding the beast of capitalism is necessary. Instead of breaking in a new pair of denim, why wouldn’t you feel more comfortable (and responsible) sliding into a pair that’s already effectively made to fit?

I’ve found authenticated gems in thrift shops: from a signed Dan Marino Miami Dolphins Nike jersey with tags (shout to Savers for the $25 come-up), to a cashmere and wool blend Stone Island cardigan, literal dozen of pairs of Levis in all styles, and much more. These are steals – way below standard retail costs, semi-difficult to find, at a pricepoint that realistically can’t be beaten unless gifted to you. Someone in this world got rid of it for a reason and YOU can capitalize off that.

Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve developed my creativity into reworks – pieces with life left that now exist with my own personal touch. I’ve resewn, tapered, distressed, patched, dyed, combined, destroyed countless pairs of denim. I’ve married war-worn military jackets together to form a visually-striking combination of colors and styles, complete with name patches and branding. I’ve overdyed plaid shirts, as well as countless vintage tees, in a wild variety of colors, just to be able to breathe life into something that someone in the world gave up on.

There’s so much to do nowadays, given the current climate – flex your creativity, you may surprise yourself.

Shout to Savers, Grailed.com, eBay, mom and pop thrift and secondhand shops, Goodwill, your local flea market, yard sale, etc. I genuinely appreciate the steals.

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