Upcycling: A dress turns into totes and bags and gets a whole new life

Upcycling: A dress turns into totes and bags and gets a whole new life

Nothing is more sustainable than when you use your existing things for many, many years, and end up wearing them out. The next best thing is to transform something you no longer use, into something different that you want to use. This is called upcycling in the fashion industry - which means that you take something used, and change it into something new with its own justification and value.

Use existing, before producing new 

At Önling, we are very committed to producing sustainably and reducing waste. We have previously purchased deadstock fabric from other clothing brands via our suppliers and produced unique clothing from it, to reduce waste of textiles. After all, it is better to use things that have already been produced, rather than producing new. We think it's a beautiful idea that we can turn leftovers into new products that have their very own value and justification.

Based on the same principle, we have now made a small, unique collection of bags, for which we sell sewing instructions and kits. The kit consists of fabric from some beautiful lace dress remnants from our clothes sale, which we think deserves a whole new life in the shape of makeup bags and a tote bag.

We have named the tote "Come Again" to illustrate that it has been "brought back to life" from leftover dress fabric. This kit and the kit for the 3 small make-up bags are based on the idea, that even though it may seem like a small thing, many streams make a big river. At Önling, we want to ensure that that river flows into a large, clean ocean!

Giving new life to a leftover dress

We have had a lace dress lying around in our warehouse for a while, as it was hard to sell due to a difficult fit. We had the idea, that we could give it a new life, as it was made from an incredibly beautiful cotton lace and was very suitable for transforming into beautiful totes and bags. After a lot of measuring and idea work, 2 patterns and 2 sewing kits have now come out of it. One dress thus becomes 4 bags: A tote and 3 smaller makeup bags.

Upcyclet kjole bliver til luksus mulepose og makeup punge

See the pattern for the upcycled tote bag here.
See the sewing kit for the upcycled tote bag here

When you receive the kit, you'll be able to clearly see that it was previously a dress, as you will get the bottom with the beautiful wavy lace when you buy the kit for the tote bag, and you will receive the top of the dress when you buy the kit for the 3 makeup purses.

See the pattern for the 3 upcycled makeup purses here

See the sewing kit for the 3 upcycled makeup purses here 

Upcyclet kjole bliver til luksus mulepose og 3 makeup punge

Upcycling in the fashion industry - a difficult discipline

The fashion industry has big ambitions in terms of upcycling, but unfortunately it has not come much further than to the idea level yet. It is a difficult - and very costly - discipline, as it is incredibly time consuming to upcycle. It requires buying used clothes - or making a take-back program - and redesigning and re-sewing all styles. We are impressed by Eileen Fisher in the USA, who we think has presented a serious concept for upcycling - read about their brand "Renew" here.

An alternative to upcycling the individual piece of clothing is to upcycle the fabrics they are made from by converting them into new textiles. There are many examples of existing and new start-up companies experimenting with this, but unfortunately there are long prospects as the textiles end up being expensive and not very durable as the fibres get shorter as they are respun. The industry is still working on producing upcycled textiles in good enough quality, to produce new clothes in it. 

How to get started with upcycling yourself  

While we wait for the big clothing manufacturers to get started with upcycling, we can luckily get started ourselves! The easiest thing is to start with smaller upcycling projects, that do not require large amounts of uniform fabric. It can be pillows, bags, totes, make-up purses, children's clothes, etc. Of course, this requires that you can sew a little and have access to a sewing machine, but other than that, you do not need any special prerequisites. 

Look in your closets - most likely you have some clothes you no longer use, or a nice dress with a small hole, but where the fabric can easily be used for something new? Maybe you have some draped curtains, a beautiful tablecloth that you are tired of or that is stained. If not, go hunting in thrift stores where you can very often find great things. 

Then go on a YouTube search for videos that show you how to sew your own stuff. 

If you'd like to start sewing bags, you can sign up for one of Önling's sewing workshops in the autumn of 2020, where you will learn how to sew an "Origami bag". Also an obvious upcycling project!

Önling has a wide range of patterns and sewing kits for bags and purses - here you can also find inspiration for how you can use your fabric leftovers. You can see sewing patterns on various bags here.