• Noor Bchara

25+ Upcycled Fashion Business Ideas and How to Brainstorm Your Own

I was inspired to write this post by a question I get asked often by my Upcycle Design Masterclass students. It seems so basic and yet it's fundamental when you're starting an upcycled fashion or accessories brand.

How do I come up with an idea for my upcycled fashion or accessories business?


If you're reading this you're probably all about thrifting and upcycling and you love the idea of turning your passion for saving the earth into a business! A business that you love and is rewarding, but you just don't know what materials you want to upcycle, so you're having a little trouble getting started.

It's important to know what you CAN do, and start from there.


1. Make a list of materials you can find near where you live. Do you live on the coast where there are raghouses in your area? Do you live in the countryside where you are more likely to find estate sales?


2. Make a list of skills and strengths you have.

Are you great at sewing?

Can you make your own patterns?

Are you a genius at marketing?

Do you paint?


3. Make a list of things you enjoy doing and that you would enjoy creating.

Do you love denim?

Are you into knitting?

Are you interested in melting down plastic or working with old tires?


4. Make a list of problems or needs you can solve with an upcycled garment or accessory.

What things can upcycling solve in your daily life?

For example, I eat a lot of salad and I go through 4-6 plastic salad containers a week.

I have often thought about how much waste that is and wondered what I could do with all of those containers.


Next, use a brainstorming technique for finding new ideas such as this one:


1. Start from a main keyword in the center of a bubble then brainstorm around the bubble with related words. Then, add sub categories to the related words and highlight the most important and relevant words that interest you. [see illustration below]


2. You’ll then have a starting point for a new project. These words can be about a concept, fabrics, textures, colors, locations, materials, resources or whatever you want…. there are no rules here.

3. Sketch your ideas if you’re more visual


4. Start a mood board of images and keywords. It can be on Pinterest or printed and pinned on a cork board



If you're still stuck, here is a quick list I jotted down of small business ideas for upcycled clothing and accessories brands:

Create handmade sequins from plastic water bottles, tin cans, and salad containers
1. Create handmade sequins from plastic water bottles, tin cans, and salad containers
Upholster second hand furniture with second hand jeans
2. Upholster second hand furniture with second hand jeans
Cut up and sew together sweaters
3. Cut up and sew together sweaters
Unravel and re-knit sweaters
4. Unravel and re-knit sweaters
Create quilts from fabric scraps or old garments
5. Create quilts from fabric scraps or old garments
Turn secondhand jeans into tote bags
6. Turn secondhand jeans into tote bags
Start selling second hand clothes on E-bay, Etsy or Depop
7. Start selling second hand clothes on E-bay, Etsy or Depop
Create upcycled t-shirts
8. Create upcycled t-shirts
Start making upcycled handbags
9. Start making upcycled handbags
Start your own designer clothing rental business
10. Start your own designer clothing rental business
Start a clothing repair business
11. Start a clothing repair business
Upcycle baby clothes
12. Upcycle baby clothes
Create an accessories line from recycled plastic
13. Create an accessories line from recycled plastic
Melt plastic grocery bags into handbags (outdoors)
14. Melt plastic grocery bags into handbags (outdoors)
Repurpose plastic salad containers
15. Repurpose plastic salad containers
Customize secondhand denim jeans and jackets with embellishment
16. Customize secondhand denim jeans and jackets with embellishment
Paint on second hand clothing
17. Paint on second hand clothing
Repurpose sari’s into dresses
18. Repurpose sari’s into dresses
Create clothing from second hand bedsheets
19. Create clothing from second hand bedsheets
Deconstruct and repurpose denim into new pieces
20. Deconstruct and repurpose denim into new pieces
Tie dye and shibori on second hand garments or bedsheets
21. Tie dye and shibori on second hand garments or bedsheets
Use production scraps to create patchwork garments and accessories
22. Use production scraps to create patchwork garments and accessories
Use discarded tires to create accessories
23. Use discarded tires to create accessories
Hand weave fabric scraps into rugs
24. Hand weave fabric scraps into rugs
Create upcycled stuffed animals
25. Create upcycled stuffed animals
Create upcycled pillows
26. Create upcycled pillows
Turn vintage vinyl records into accessories
27. Turn vintage vinyl records into accessories

I would love to know what amazing and unique upcycled business ideas you come up with! Reach out to me: info@upcycledesignschool.com Use the subject: #upcycledbusinessidea





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Hi, I'm Noor Bchara

I'm the founder of NOORISM, a repurposed denim brand where we create new, elevated pieces from second hand jeans. I'm an adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City where I teach about Upcycling and Repurposed design. 

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DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE GUIDE to Finding Upcycled Materials

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How to Find Upcycled Materials and Not Get Lost in the Process

"Noor's List": 25+ sources from around the world to find UPCYCLED materials

 

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