Twice Upcycled

Date: 2008

Principal Investigators: Rebecca Earley, with Kate Goldsworthy

Funded by: AHRC (Worn Again) and Chelsea College of Art & Design

Mindful of the impact of textile and clothing production on the environment, Earley and Goldsworthy have developed a series of Twice Upcycled garments. Upcycling refers to reuse of a garment where its quality remains the same or is increased by the process, attempting to counter the common problem of recycling practices reducing the quality of the original materials, as occurs when glass is recycled.

Here the original shirt has been bought and worn by a consumer, and then handed on to a second hand or charity shop, from where Earley has purchased it for her Top 100 project. This first upcycling has occurred through simple reshaping and overprinting. Earley’s heat photogram print uses a real palm leaf, recycled paper and reactive dyes, to create an overprint that hides any staining or soiling from the garment’s first life. A second life is thus given quickly and stylishly to a polyester shirt that would otherwise take more than 200 years to decompose in landfill.

Following a period of wear by the same or next consumer, the shirt can be returned and its third life can be created. For the second upcycling stage, the shirt becomes a quilted waistcoat, where it has been recut and lined in recycled polyester fleece, and then laser welded by Goldsworthy. The materials are fused together according to a preset digital pattern, which creates a permanent bond between the layers with surface decoration achieved as part of the same process. No adhesives or bonding agents are used in this process. The second shirt has been re-finished to create a lace like effect, with areas of melted transparent material created through laser etching. Again the pattern is controlled digitally and there are no added agents in the process. The reuse of existing materials without additives is a key feature of this stage. Upcycling is achieved without any material resources and the resulting product retains its inherent recyclability for another lifetime.

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