“I just had an idea that over the course of the past few years has struck a cord, a creative design solution to an environmental challenge. Each time someone wears 'A From Somewhere piece', or each student that discovers upcycling, and each person that tells this story, that’s the beginning of a dialogue that raises questions.” – Orsola de Castro
When did you first start addressing the issue of pre-consumer waste and seeing that it was a problem?
For me it was a creative journey, not originally an environmental one. I liked, as a designer, reusing unwanted stuff, I liked the poetry, irreverence and sense of humour behind it. Then, little by little, factory by factory, it turned into something deeper, bigger and more powerful. Clothes with a message, a story behind them. It started with a cashmere cardigan with holes in 1997, and by 2002 I was knee deep in textile waste.
Do you think there will come a day when we will all be wearing upcycled clothes? How do we make this happen?
Upcycling should not be seen as a sole solution, but as a way to integrate discarded textiles into normal collections. That way we will be really making the most of it's potential. 100% Upcycled collections are quite hard-core, so hopefully they will always be in a minority. Best left to the specialists. I want to see, regularly, Upcycled sleeves on a beautiful dress made with biodegradable fabrics, for instance. That way we can truly upscale it. That, to me, is where we need to go.
In a perfect world, how would you envision our mainstream approach to fashion? What do you wish we appreciated more?
Sometimes we need to look back to move forward. I would like to see a different approach, a more responsible approach to manufacturing as well as designing, a return to wanting and waiting and a stronger emotional engagement with the clothes we buy. Right now, many people buy because they can, not because they want. It doesn’t matter to me if its luxury or high street, I like being in love with the things I own.
Orsola de Castro is founder of Reclaim to Wear, upcycled fashion label From Somewhere and co-founder of Estethica, the sustainable fashion area at London Fashion Week. She will be in conversation with John-Paul Flintoff, faculty member and author of ‘How To Change The World’ next Monday as part of our World Changers series.