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Upcycling as a Design Strategy for Product Lifetime Optimisation and Societal Change

Han, S and Tyler, D and Apeagyei, P (2015) Upcycling as a Design Strategy for Product Lifetime Optimisation and Societal Change. In: PLATE (Product Lifetimes And The Environment) Conference.

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Abstract

Designers and product developers are taking greater responsibility for the problems presented by the inefficient and unsustainable systems used to create new fashion items. The culture of transience, newness and perceived obsolescence, so prevalent in the fashion industry, has led to growing over-consumption and consequentially high volumes of waste. Clothing is often disposed of with as much as 70% of its potential lifetime still left. Upcycling seeks to provide a transitional solution to the textile waste problem, by optimising the lifetimes of discarded products from an inefficient system, as technology moves to develop more sustainable approaches. As a design based waste solution, upcycled fashion production utilises textile waste to create products with a higher retail value than traditionally recycled goods. This paper aims to analyse the innovative ways in which UK based upcycling designers are recreating style and value from discarded materials, and the benefits of this process. The author’s own design process, as a UK based upcycling designer, was documented and examined. Challenges and solutions to upcycled production were then further investigated through structured interviews and observational field trips with leading UK based upcycling practitioners. The practical implications of this research include the development of an innovative, UK based sustainable design and production approach, which directly tackles the issue of textile waste and offers scope for further employment and training within the industry. Social implications include recommendations on how best to engage with the public on environmental issues in the apparel industry, and the wider implications of these issues.

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