How Designers Are Perpetuating Fashion's Love Of Repurposing

When news broke that producing one T-shirt requires the amount of water a person drinks in two and a half years, I think most people had a come to Jesus moment and realized that fashion is seriously straining Earth's resources. According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the textile industry emits more greenhouse gasses than international shipping and aviation combined. After years of being guilted into paying an extra fee to compensate for gasses when booking flights, has it become time for fashion to do the same? Should all wash instruction labels come with CO2 emissions numbers and amount of water polluted for the production of each garment? And should all consumers be charged extra for said numbers? It would certainly help consumers being more conscious in their choices which would snowball into forcing manufacturers to think twice before double dyeing a $5 top.
Or, can manufacturers and designers alike come to the realization that the planets resources can’t be abused without consequences and come up with new ways of producing fashion?
In the spirit of Martin Margiela and his groundbreaking concept of making haute couture from only repurposed materials (as it is well documented at the exhibition Margiela/Galliera, 1989-2009, currently on display at the Palais Galliera in Paris) as the first syndicated by Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, we're featuring a string of young designers who have chosen different ways of creating less environmental impactful garments without compromising forward-thinking and trendsetting design.
First up, Benjamin Alexander Huseby and Serhat Isik, the Berlin based-duo behind the two-time LVMH Prize-nominated brand GmbH.
Photo: Giovanni Giannoni.
Photo: Giovanni Giannoni.
How did you decide to start repurposing fabrics and garments for your collections? And what is the reason behind it?
"One reason was that it was cheap, and therefore made it easy to make our first collection. But, of course, we are very conscious that fabric making is the biggest polluter in the fashion industry. Also, conceptually we love the stories behind a pre-worn garment."
Did you experiment with repurposing already in school?
"Yes we did. For instance, Serhat once made clothes for his stuffed animals from his old black velour pajamas when he was six years old."
How does the used materials affect the designs? Do the materials inspire the design or do you find materials to match your designs?
"It’s really both, and a back and forth between the two. We always have ideas for garments we want to use, but also some materials lend themselves to specific purposes. Mostly the garments we use are the gateway to telling our stories because it brings up certain memories. The selection is very personal and only made by us — even for production."
If the latter is the case, how hard is it to find those materials?
"For reclaiming materials, we always research if it’s a kind of garment we can find enough of for production."
Does repurposing make the production chain less or more difficult?
"It makes it very artisanal, as every piece have to be hand cut and designed in our studio. The garments are never the same."
How do you quality check your garments?
"In addition to the factories test, mostly by us and friends wearing them."
How does it change the price point?
"The materials and hours to make the artisanal garments is generally very high. But recycled yarns and deadstock fabrics are generally cheaper."
Do you have any idea as to how much of your collection is currently from used materials?
"Reclaimed materials is about 10%, recycled materials is another 10 %, and then deadstock fabrics is about 40%."
Do you have plans of making your collection from 100% repurposed materials in the future?
"We're aiming to make it 100% from either reclaimed, recycled, deadstock, organic, or biodegradable materials."

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