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Sustainability has been a big buzzword the past few years; in the world of fashion, reworked and upcycled clothing are another of its many manifestations

For years now, environmental activists have been pointing their fingers towards the fashion industry as a major contributor to pollution and waste. But while it's easy to spew about the usual call to actions necessary to stop—or at least decrease—the impacts of fast fashion, it's a whole different story when it comes to putting those into action.

Fortunately, many young designers, particularly independent ones, seem to have found a new way to reinvent their designs with old material. The answer, to them, is in reworking. The concept behind this method is fairly straightforward. Designers take old pieces of clothing (the word "vintage" has been tossed around a lot here), and redesigning it to create a whole new piece. This could mean cutting it up or adding new elements to it, but at the end of the day, it's all about changing the design to create a distinctly original piece from items that would otherwise go on hiding at the back of your closet. 

Reworking Locally And Internationally

A couple of years ago, streetwear blog, Highsnobiety set its sights on Studio ALCH, lauding them for their ingenious reinvention of pieces from Nike and adidas. Have no doubt, these clothes were still recognisably from Nike and adidas—ostensibly still sporting the respective emblems of checks and stripes—but they were also done so uniquely by Studio ALCH that everyone just knew: this was an original creation, at least in its own way. 

Since then, there's been a slow but steady rise in the popularity and in the prominence of reworked pieces. While it has yet to be fully recognised in the mainstream, it seems to be heading that way soon. Even mega-retailer, Urban Outfitters, has launched a line of reworked clothing items that range from Ralph Lauren polos turned cropped tops to grungy patchwork skirts.

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In the local context, people are catching on as well. Ukay is no longer kitsch (if it ever was), but rather a treasure trove of possibilities waiting for a creative mind to catch on. Independent fashion designers on Instagram have taken to the calling quite well. Labels like Closet by Mika or Psyched Clothing are sourcing fabrics and material from secondhand shops or thrift stores to create unique pieces that range a variety of aesthetics. A quick scroll through social media will immediately bring you to the many other independent creatives who have managed to rework designs using clothes that were thrifted or (in their words) "sourced sustainably". 


Along with reworked pieces, upcycled styles of dress are also proving the rise of the sustainability movement. Whereas reworked pieces often come from clothes that are simply old or unused, upcycled pieces can come from objects of lesser value that aren't necessarily clothing. One of the more bohemian ones is the rebirth of feedbag clothing. 

Surprisingly, feedbag clothing was a trend in the United States during the Great Depression, but obviously, it wasn't so much about fashion as it was about having the essentials. These days, however, international brands such as BODE and 3 Women Co are bringing it back as a stylish accoutrement to your ensemble (and they've sold out quite quickly too). 

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It's not just in foreign fashion brands that people have gotten excited over this type of clothing either. Local brands such as have also joined in, creating dresses, polo shirts, skirts, pants, shorts, and tops all made from sacks of flour or katsa (canvas). 

It's an interesting design choice, certainly one that's eye-catching for the modern shopper. But whether jumping on a trend or servicing an ideal, these fashion items are likely to be here for the long haul.