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jan 25, 2017
Creative Industries

Upcycling Takes On A Fashionable Form With Young Brazilian Designers

Upcycling has taken the environmental movement by storm as people around the world are coming up with new ways to transform trash into useful - and in the case of young Brazilians, trendy - objects. Brazil’s up-and-coming generation of fashionistas have taken the concept of upcycling and turned it into a new line of fashion.

Gabriela Mazepa, founder of Re-Roupa, is one of these Brazilian trend-setters. The young stylist collects fabrics that local factories would throw away and makes clothes out of them. The Re-Roupa store located in Rio de Janeiro also hosts upcycling workshops and debates, in addition to employing seamstresses from low-income communities.

An offshoot of Re-Roupa, Roupa Livre organizes clothing exchange events. Its founder, Mari Pelli, was inspired by the clothing exchange that naturally occurs between family members.

“What years before didn’t seem like anything interesting, has become today a way to substitute our need to buy new clothes,” said Pelli to Brazilian press last month. “I haven’t bought anything new in three years - I just renovate my wardrobe through clothing exchange, transforming or fixing-up old pieces, and second-hand clothes."

Another Rio-based clothing brand based in upcycling is vintage seller MIG Jeans. Created by three friends during a technical course in fashion back in 2013, MIG Jeans has since participated in sustainable design fairs like Eco Paraty Festival and SHELL Young Initiative (SHELL Iniciativa Jovem). 

According to the young designers, jeans are extremely harmful to the environment when discarded, but when reused can be re-designed for any gender, age, era, and style, making them an ideal fabric for upcycling. MIG Jeans targets a young, student public, and is present in regional Rio fashion events like Babilônia Feira Hype, Carioquíssima e Mixtape no Parque. Clients can bring in old jean clothing and come out with completely re-designed pieces.

Upcycling has even become the subject of a class at the Istituto Europeo di Design (IED), with a focus on technical applications in the design process. 

“In upcycling, you close the cycle, using prime materials that have been discarded and turning them into prime materials again,” said Fabio Palma, director of the IED, in November. “This circular economy is more sustainable and respectful to the environment.”

To check out more Brazilian upcycling trend-setters, Slow Down Fashion is an online Brazilian guide to local sustainable designers and clothing brands. In addition to clothes, the Slow Down Fashion website features shoes, accessories, and home decoration, which can be bought at their online stores.