Vintage Fabric - Retro Fabric - Vintage Fashion blog

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Julie's "Friendly" Little Rant about Upcycling

Have you noticed lately the words "upcycled" and "repurposed" becoming more popular? Green is good, but is Green doing a disservice to historical and vintage textiles and clothing? Decide for yourself, but don't decide until you read what my guest writer Julie Bergmans of Fab Gabs Vintage Co. has to say about it:

We live in a world where being green is becoming a necessity. In fact, many environmentally friendly choices have shifted from seeming inconvenient to simply being a habit. The campaigns of the 80’s and 90’s to “reduce, reuse, recycle” have largely done their job. I’m on the bandwagon – green is good!

Lovers of vintage everything know that reusing old things is one of the best ways to recycle in style – whether you’re decorating your home, or yourself! When green becomes bad, however, is when “green” buzz words are used to describe the destruction of pieces of history. The two words most commonly heard in the world of altered vintage are “upcycled” and “repurposed.” These words put a positive spin on something that isn’t admirable at all.

Upcycled = vintage altered in such a way that the intrinsic historical value is irreparably destroyed. It is sad, but true - this term is often used to describe perfectly good vintage items that have been damaged to make them more appealing to modern sensibilities and current trends.

Repurposed = (vintage) that was once used for one purpose, and has been adapted for another, either by redesign of simply use. Generally, a term that is acceptable for small bits & pieces of vintage items, but potentially dangerous on a larger scale.

Now, there’s a lot of worn out vintage clothing and textiles out there. You’ll never catch me getting on someone’s case because they decided to alter a dress that was shattering, or because they made one good necklace out of two or three broken ones. That’s responsible reuse – refashioning, if you will. It is one of my preferred methods of dealing with imperfect vintage.

GOOD, positive words for use of vintage things include: restored, renewed, rebuilt, revived, refashioned.

Denise Morden of Unforgettable Vintage is the best person I know to represent responsible repurposing and refashioning. She restores every piece she can to a fine, wearable state. Broken pieces, lonely components, and irretrievably damaged hats/garments are turned into beautiful creations that often look entirely authentic to the era, and ALWAYS evoke the feel and mood of the eras they are pieced from. Her Egyptian revival jewelry is a particularly excellent example.

At her business, no wearable or restorable piece is ever sacrificed for the sake of art - vintage is already art & history in one. But per her motto - nothing goes to waste. I recommend that anyone interested in "repurposed" pieces take a look at her inspiring creations.

Vintage is already wonderful. The pieces are a part of our history - both fashion history and social history. Moreover, there is a finite amount of it. Destroying something beautiful, historical and hard to find in order to satisfy the fickle tastes of now is irresponsible and short-sighted. Deconstructing it isn’t art – it is destruction. Upcycling isn’t improvement. And repurposing is frequently misused and misguided. Before you pick up your scissors, grab your glue and that bag full of random lace, think; is this item useable/wearable as it is? Can it be restored to wear/usability? If the answer is yes, then there’s no need for upcycling or other destructive measures. And there’s plenty of damaged vintage seconds you can work with instead.

If you love to create, look for components. Bits of jewelry. Broken clothing. Damaged d├ęcor. You can’t “repurpose” them – raw materials are intended to be used! But please, no more “upcycled” vintage gowns with the skirts chopped short, feathers glued on and cheap bedazzling. Believe me, in this green-minded buying culture, the pieces will still find a place with someone who will reuse them exactly as they are. Enjoy your eco-friendly collecting and crafting! Many thanks to Revival Fabrics for allowing me to share my thoughts.


Julie Bergmans
Fab Gabs Vintage Co.

Julie, thank you for your insightful thoughts. Nan
Readers, do you have thoughts about this subject?


Bright Young Twins said...

hear hear!

Nan Jaeger said...

Yes, hear hear! I wish there were industry standards for "green" and vintage. But this has been the controversy with vintage and antiques; how many changes can you make before it is no longer in the original condition or as valuable.

Rueby... said...

YES! Completely concur :)

the upholstress said...

Just the word "upcycling" casts a chill over my heart.......

BetterDressesVintage said...

Agree wholeheartedly.

I do what I can to salvage still-wearable, damaged iems (take up a hem to hide an intractable stain, remove shattered sleeves, have my jewelry fix a broken finding). But I'll never, ever take something vintage, in good condition, and "modernize" it. If you want modern, BUY modern.

That's what turned me off entirely to the (apparently short-lived) TV program "Dresscue Me." Shareen, of famed "Shareen Vintage," would take a perfectly good vintage dress and "fix it" by cutting off the entire bodice. I'd gasp in horror, and people just kept buying.

There are plenty of perfectly nice, perfectly modern, affordable clothes out there. Why on earth would you take something irreplaceable and destroy it like that?

On the other hand, taking a cracked or shattered dish, or irreparably damaged piece of jewelry, and incorporating it into something new -- THAT is recycling!