What you and I could call a lot of old waste turns out to be a rich harvest for a growing variety of designers who use waste products to make catwalk-worthy clothing.
Celebrities pay thousands of pounds for the items – in which they can make the most politically correct statement ever without even opening their mouths.
Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, got her clothes to talk virtuously this week as she got off a plane in Canada with a pair of flat black Rothy’s pumps of £ 135 made from recycled water bottles.
She also carried a £ 1,400 Prada duffel bag made from ocean and textile waste. Known as ‘trashion’, it is the most popular new trend in the fashion world, with high-quality, sought-after garments made from items intended for landfill.
From belts made from old fire hoses to sportswear made from coffee grounds, SARAH RAINEY completes the pioneering brands that turn waste into waste. . .
£ 695 RECYCLED PLASTIC BAG
Recycled plastic bag from Anya Hindmarch
One of the first designers to participate in the war against plastic was Anya Hindmarch. In 2007, she released a £ 5 canvas carrying case for charity, with the words “I’m not a plastic bag.”
A fashion frenzy ensued, with shoppers paying up to £ 300 on eBay to buy one. Now, 13 years later, Hindmarch has made a new collection of bins from recycled plastic bottles.
The slogan? “I AM a plastic bag.” Costs £ 695, which means the bag (below) can be reserved, but is sold out on the label’s website.
OLD YARNS IN POLISHED KNITTING
Valentina Karellas from London grew up in a house where nothing was wasted. “My tailor mother kept all her scraps in a large bag – which I still have today,” she says.
It is therefore no surprise that her knitted brand of the same name uses excess yarn from large factories to make unique sweaters, dresses, scarves, hats and other accessories – lovingly knitted by Valentina herself. “They are all different colors, thicknesses, lengths and types,” she says about the yarn. “I never know what I’m going to get, but that’s part of the fun.”
It takes up to three weeks to produce her designs – ranging from £ 40 mittens to a £ 440 merino wool coat – each tailored to the size and preferences of the buyer. She wastes nothing and turns her own pieces into necklaces, collars, and wristbands.
Yarn from large factories is used to make clothing that is sold by the London Valentina Karellas
DRESSES FROM ROYAL NETS
Although they may sound a bit spiky, clothes made from nettles are popular with those who want to wear their green credentials on their sleeves.
The nettles, originating from the Prince Charles Highgrove estate, have been designed and processed into clothing from the sustainable punk brand Vin + Omi.
The unlikely collaboration came about after the duo (who only use their first names and dressed up celebrities from Kate Moss to Michelle Obama) met the Prince to discuss their shared love of horticulture and the environment.
Dressed in kettle suits, gloves and glasses, they picked 10,000 nettles for three days and took a delivery van back to their Wiltshire studio to be dried, peeled and bleached.
They use pectin (a glue used in making jam) to tie the fibers together before it is sewn into a fabric that looks and feels like wool.
“The hours that were needed to produce this material seemed to us just as precious as gold dust,” says Vin.
Last year they received a celebrity show from model Jo Wood (above), who wore an extensive creation on the catwalk during London Fashion Week.
Woman wears a dress made from nettles harvested from the Prince Charles Highgrove estate
PLASTIC SHOES FIT FOR A DUCHESS …
The San Francisco company, Rothy’s, which has won Meghan’s quality mark, maintains a record of the number of plastic bottles it has recycled since its launch in 2016. That number stood at 48,896,491 yesterday – and it still counts.
During the production process, the bottles are hot washed and sterilized before they are melted into pellets, stretched into fibers and knitted together to make the shoe fabric. These are then sewn by hand on two different durable soles, one made from carbon-free rubber and the other from luxury vegan leather. The pumps cost £ 135 and even their packaging presses all green buttons, shipped in cardboard boxes tied with ribbons made from recycled fibers.
No wonder Vogue has called them “one of the most politically correct shoes on our besieged planet.”
In addition to the Duchess of Sussex, there are also actresses Katie Holmes, Isla Fisher and Lupita Nyong’o.
Meghan Markle wore shoes made of plastic bottles when she got off a plane in Canada
… AND AN OCEAN WASTE BAG
Italian designer Prada launched its “Re-Nylon” bag collection last year, with the ultimate goal of using only recycled nylon by the end of next year.
It could not have asked for better approval than the £ 1,400 duffel bag depicted on the arm of the Duchess of Sussex (left). Made from plastic waste collected from oceans, fishing nets and textile waste, it is said that nylon can be recycled indefinitely. Prada has promised to donate a percentage of all sales of Re-Nylon bags to an environmental goal.
This bag from the Italian designer Prada is made entirely from recycled nylon threads
FIRE HOSES GIVE A NEW LIFE
Kresse Wesling always spent days visiting waste dumps up and down the country. “I would sit down and stare at the piles of garbage, and I couldn’t help thinking that something of it was beautiful,” she says.
Former fire hoses were transformed into this bag by Kresse Wesling
“Of course there were diapers and garbage bags, but there were also trucks full of clean, usable material.”
Like to set up an environmentally friendly brand, it was a coincidental encounter with the London Fire Brigade that set Kresse on her way to her new company. She settled on old fire hoses, which are routinely discarded after 25 years of service.
With friend James Henrit, who came up with the idea for belts after his own broke and he cut one out of the hose, she founded Elvis & Kresse.
They sold fire hose belts online and in a store in North London for £ 25 ranging in bags. Today, their company – which has saved 200 tons on landfill – makes accessories from 15 materials, including parachute silk, shoe boxes and coffee bags. Products include wallets, laptop bags and notepads, and they work with Burberry to transform 120 tons of leather waste.
GOLD JEWELRY FROM OLD MOBILES
Designer Eliza Walter founded Lylie’s in 2017, only 24 years old, after teaching herself about gems by watching videos on YouTube.
But unlike other jewelers, she gets her gold and silver from the most unusual places, including discarded electronics.
“In this age of technology, huge amounts of electronic waste are being produced,” explains Eliza, who has trained in Hatton Garden and has been accompanied by the founder of Links of London, Annoushka Ducas.
“A typical cell phone contains 0.2 g of gold and with an average life expectancy of just 22 months, extracting and refining it results in a lower carbon footprint than primary gold.”
With the growth of electronic waste – according to a UN report there is 50 million tons per year, of which only 16 percent is recycled – this so-called ‘e-mining’ is increasing. But Lylie’s is the only British brand that does it.
Each piece – from a £ 65 pendant to a £ 2,250 ring with sapphire strewn – is made with wax engraving, a complex process that lasts up to 200 hours.
Customers are also encouraged to send in old family jewels to be recycled into new gems.
Designer Eliza Walter extracts technological waste for gold and precious stones before they become beautiful jewelry
TENTS TURN IN FASHION
From old tents dumped at festivals to battered books destined for the trash, the studio of Bethany Williams is a magnet for other people’s trash. The 30-year-old Liverpudlian makes such items into jackets, hoodies, anoraks and trousers for her brand in streetwear style.
Every piece of fabric she uses is “upcycled”, i.e., improved and resold as something new – and many of the items of clothing are made by people in charity projects, such as drug rehabilitation groups and workshops for the disabled.
“I’ve always been interested in helping communities and in textiles, so I just bring them together,” Bethany explains (left). She keeps things in the family: her pattern cutter does the samples from her daughter.
A coat in her recent collection was made from waste tape from a British toy factory; another trimmed with old blankets. But they are not cheap: a sweater costs £ 1500 while jackets range from £ 750 to £ 4,500.
By spending more, bethany reasons, smart shoppers will eventually buy fewer items.
Bethany Williams is pictured above in a former tent during the 2019 Fashion Awards