The upcycling revolution


We meet the fashion and accessories designers redefining the luxury landscape

Words: Chekii Harling 

Our buyers are constantly on the lookout for small, innovative brands that are putting sustainability at the forefront of their work. The latest earth-conscious fashion and accessories designers to join our RESELLFRIDGES roster (our initiative to help close the loop on waste) have taken the old adage ‘waste not, want not’ to a whole new level, turning unwanted fabric and garments into fresh, new (and not to mention desirable) pieces. From 1/OFF Paris’s fusion of designer deadstock to clothsurgeon’s transformation of old streetwear piece, we spoke to them about their inspirations, sustainability goals and the joys of upcycling.


The demi-couture designer reimagining PINKO’s archive

“We worked with lots of sparkle and rich fabrics to give the season a hopeful and luxurious edge,” says designer Patrick McDowell of his first upcycled collection with the Italian fashion brand PINKO. United by a love of sparkles, PINKO and Patrick’s collaboration is a match made in maximalist heaven – what else would you expect from a designer who describes his work as “Liverpool goes couture”?

This collection marks the beginning of their two-year collaboration in which Patrick will be working as PINKO’s Design Director of Sustainability, creating bi-annual reimagined collections from PINKO’s archival waste. “Upcycling to me is common sense; we all know we have too many things in existence, so why not recirculate them?” says Patrick. “You are working with someone else’s ideas and the garments have history, which is wonderful.”

Patrick McDowell, the brand, is about looking into the past and combining that thinking with new technology to move towards a circular future.

– Patrick McDowell (PINKO Design Director of Sustainability)


An exclusive-to-Selfridges collection, crafted from discovered deadstock

“The name of the brand represents the fact that For the Ages handbags stand the test of time and can be worn by women of all ages,” says Jacqueline Syms of her brand, which she started after working as an accessories buyer for many years.

Majoring in Fine Art & History at George Washington University, Jacqueline’s sculpture projects taught her how to transform her ideas into physical objects with a focus on form, and art continues to inspire her handbag designs. “I imagine For the Ages designs in the artistic time periods that I love. Could this have been worn in the 1970s or the 1990s? Can I see Yoko Ono wearing one of these bags? Could these shapes be placed into a Kandinsky painting and work? These are the kinds of questions I ask myself when I’m designing,” says Jacqueline. For the brand’s exclusive-to-Selfridges collection, Jacqueline and her New York-based team used recycled materials after discovering a beautiful deadstock cotton moiré fabric at their go-to fabric shop in the city.

At For the Ages we are moving toward a more sustainable future by utilising all materials to their maximum capacity, opting for deadstock fabrics and those made from natural resources.

– Jacqueline Syms (Founder, For the Ages)


The upcycled unisex brand with social sustainability at its heart

“I’ve always had a passion for vintage wear and urban culture, and I wanted to create a brand that upcycled defective or unsold goods into unique designs,” says Cedric Chauveau, founder of Overlord, which sources unwanted fabrics from resellers in Europe and Asia. Cedric’s designs are inspired not only by his French heritage, but also by traditional dress in other countries – from his Cuban-style Havana shirts with buttons crafted from coconut shells to his modern interpretation of the Japanese kimono-cut noragi. “I had a desire to redefine ‘the blazer’ in a more relaxed style – and that’s how I came to design the Overlord noragi with adjustable sleeves,” says Cedric. When scouting for a suitable workshop in Thailand – where Cedric has lived since 2004 – he met Khun Prayat, the President of the Universal Foundation for Persons with Disabilities in northern Thailand, who has been collaborating with clothing producers for several years. Since then, the production of Overlord’s pieces has helped numerous disabled craftsmen find work in northern Thailand.

We have come to the end of this fast-fashion logic – we have the right cards in our hands to make the end of disposable fashion a reality.

– Cedric Chauveau (Founder, Overlord)


The zero-waste knitwear designer transforming tents into womenswear

In August 2018, designer Chloe Baines was enjoying the festival circuit: “we were one of the last groups to leave the festival, but it looked as though nobody had left – there were tents still pitched across the entire campsite.” Collecting the tents with her fellow festivalgoers, Chloe realised they’d been stitched together in a similar way to the garments she’d been making for her degree in Fashion Design at London College of Fashion – and Chloe Baines, the brand, was born. 

Once the tents (which she now sources from charities and clean-up initiatives) have been thoroughly cleaned and cut up, London-based Chloe passes them to her colleague Alexandra Lucas to create zero-waste weaves in a local workshop, while her garment labels are screen-printed with water-based ink in Dalston – thereby championing recycling and local production simultaneously. “With the sheer volume of clothes available, fashion can sometimes feel frivolous, but upcycling tells a story, and you don’t have to start from scratch – adding some studs, diamantés or cutting off sleeves adds value,” says Chloe.

Upcycling is to take something unwanted or discarded and turn it into something that is higher in value. I really enjoy finding beauty in somebody else’s rubbish.

– Chloe Baines (Founder of her eponymous label)


The menswear designer reconstructing streetwear

“When I was studying fashion, my tutor would call me a surgeon as I would always cut my patterns with a scalpel,” says Rav Matharu, who founded clothsurgeon eight years ago. His reconstructed, often patchworked, menswear pieces, which fuse tailoring with streetwear, are made from pre-existing garments sourced from vintage resellers. “Our main signature is the quality of the construction,” explains Rav, whose pieces are made in east London by himself and a small team of craftsmen.

Rav has always been drawn to the super-brands: “I’ve been obsessed with Nike from a young age and it’s been a dream to work with them on several projects – the swoosh is so iconic that it adds an unexpected element when applied to the clothsurgeon silhouettes,” he says. This season, Rav has teamed up with Coca-Cola to create a capsule collection, launching exclusively at Selfridges in store and online. And throughout December, his Coca-Cola-inspired Land Rover Defender takeover was on display in our menswear department at Selfridges London. “We made a canopy at the back using archive advert prints, in the boot was a vintage mini fridge with exclusive Christmas cans and the lighting was a nod to the famous Coca-Cola Christmas truck,” the designer explains.

Clothsurgeon is open to everyone – that’s the beauty of bespoke and my knowledge of streetwear and tailoring. I like to think I can create something suited to anyone.

– Rav Matharu (Founder, Clothsurgeon)

1/ OFF Paris

The contemporary vintage brand revitalising designer deadstock

“People are now seeking unique pieces that reflect who they are and what they believe in,” says Renée van Wijngaarden, who founded 1/OFF Paris after working at the luxury vintage reseller Vestiaire Collective. “We love to play with shapes and silhouettes to create unexpected contrasts,” she says of 1/OFF’s signature approach to design. Renée employs a team of couture makers, each with their own specialities, to transform the vintage pieces, with examples including an elegant Chanel tux fused with a Levi’s denim jacket and a men’s oversized blazer with a nipped-in waist.

We see ourselves as part of the fashion ecosystem, actively participating in creating circular fashion.

– Renée van Wijngaarden (Founder, 1/OFF Paris)


Looking to lower your environmental fashion footprint without compromising on style? Discover our extraordinary selection of pre-loved fashion and accessories brands, become a RESELFRIDGES seller and switch up your wardrobe with luxury rental pieces from HURR.