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Ethical fashion: What does upcycling means?

Ethical fashion: What does upcycling means?

Let's start by a simple definition: up-cycling is a creative re-use. 

At a time when producing and consuming better is at the heart of our concerns, a solution has been around for years: up-cycling. You've probably already heard of this concept, but hopefully you would love to know more about this eco-responsible practice. If you're wondering what the definition of upcycling really is and what its real benefits are, continue reading, our Camia team will explain it all!

Up-cycling: a positive recycling method

Up-cycling is also known as "reuse" or  giving "a product a second life". It literally means: recycling from above. Up-cycling is the reuse of old materials to transform them into value-added, aesthetic or useful products. It gives a second life to objects or materials destined to be thrown away (scraps of fabric, damaged clothing, wood, packaging, pallets, cardboard, etc.). In other words, it's making new out of old! Also refer to as recovering, this recycling of waste is part of a sustainable approach and contributes to the development of a circular economy. Antoine Lavoisier was a forerunner in his day who quoted: "Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed"

Upcycling fashion Denim shoe design

Where does upcycling come from?  

The concept of up-cycling first appeared 30 years ago, in the early 1990s. It was introduced by Reiner Pilz, a former German engineer turned interior designer. His aim was to go beyond the simple concept of recycling, and embrace the concept of up-cycling, a value-creating process. He said in an interview in 1994: “I call it cycling. They smash bricks, they smash everything. What we need is upcycling, where old products are given more value, not less.”  

Today,  a truly ecological and sustainable movement has gained a lot of traction. It's an approach that's blossoming in many sectors, including fashion, design, gardening, art, electronics and many others. For the fashion industry, upcycling is the process that keeps many textiles and materials out of landfill.

What's the difference between recycling and upcycling?

The recycling process consists of recovering waste, destroying it and then transforming it into new materials that can be used to create a new product. It implies the destruction of the material, and therefore a loss of value. For cardboard, for example, it will be crushed and transformed so that it can then be reused. 

Up-cycling, on the other hand, involves recovering waste materials and reusing them as they are to give them a second life; opportunity. It requires no prior destruction process. This process therefore implies no loss of value, but rather a revalorization of a waste product. 

Up-cycling wins the match between the two because it requires no transformation of the primary material and offers a new product of superior quality.

Recycling is good, but upcycling is way better!

French brand Manon Planche upcycling

Manon Planche upcycled collection

What are the advantages of upcycling?

Upcycling has 4 major advantages.

Economical: upcycling is good for the wallet, because it reuses existing materials that were supposed to cost nothing. All it takes is a little creativity and know-how to up-cycle a product!

Ecological: up-cycling is a sustainable recycling method, as it requires little energy or water. As the process is based on the reuse of existing materials, there's no need to create a new material, and therefore no need to expend energy to design or manufacture it.

Creative: beyond the economic and ecological aspects, upcycling is also a strong creative concept that allows the upcycler to free his or her imagination to recreate a useful object from an existing material. All materials are suitable for upcycling: textiles, wood, fabrics, leather, metal and more. An old dress can become a blouse, or, a pair of jeans turned into shorts, etc.

Unique: this concept allows you to create unique garments or objects, as they are recreated from scratch, the fruit of the creator's imagination. Also, upcycled pieces are often limited editions, as leftover materials are often found in small quantities.

As a result, upcycling promotes the social and solidarity economy (SSE) through a creative, zero-waste method.

Nigel Xavier upcycled designs
Nigel Xavier upcycled designs

Camia and upcycling

At Camia, we're committed to the sustainability of our collections by using up-cycling as a creative motor. Wanting to find a way to include upcycling into our sandals, we discovered that all interchangeable straps could be made of textile waste. We use all kinds of scraps (leather, fabric or beads) to up-cycle them into our interchangeable accessories. The idea is to create top-quality and limited edition pieces while reusing existing materials for our straps collections.


At Camia, we advocate thoughtful, sustainable fashion. Our aim is to reduce our environmental impact as much as possible, while being able to enjoy our world’s current pace, by including virtuous manufacturing processes such as up-cycling or via the very essence of our concept. With Camia's interchangeable strap sandals, you can create hundreds of looks with just one pair of shoes! Say goodbye to 12 pairs of shoes you only wear once, and make way for a single, versatile pair of shoes! 



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