The First 3 Steps to Starting an Upcycled Fashion Line
I’m Noor Bchara, the founder of NOORISM, an upcycled denim brand where we turn reclaimed jeans into elevated fashion.
The term “upcycle” refers to the creative reuse of existing materials. It is officially defined as: to recycle something in such a way that the resulting product is of a higher value than the original item. Upcycling is a very sustainable method of creating fashion, since it keeps usable textile from entering the landfills and reduces the strain of demand on natural resources.
I started NOORISM after being disheartened by the volume of poorly-made, practically disposable clothes produced by the fashion industry every year. I still wanted to create fashion, but I wanted to do it in a way that made a positive impact! My goal as a designer is to keep as many garments out of landfills as possible. My mission is to inspire and educate people about upcycling and repurposed design and how to do it on a bigger scale. In this post, I’ll be sharing the first 3 steps to starting an upcycled line.
1. Research and Create a Mood Board
The first thing I recommend doing when considering starting any business is to do thorough research on your target market, trends, demand and competition. You can use google trends for keyword searches. You can also use fashion publications to observe the trends and see what is for sale online and in online department stores. This will help give you an idea of what your competitors are doing and what price point they are selling at as well.
Gathering inspiration can help guide your design and style sense and help you determine if your line will be minimal, funky, traditional etc. I suggest organizing all of your inspirational images into a single layout called a mood board. You can use pinterest which is easy and free or you can cut out paper images and pin them onto a big board.
2. Define and Design
Knowing the intended use and your ideal customer will help guide you to design clothing that resonates with your target audience and will be more likely to sell.
NOORISM creates elevated fashion from second hand materials and sells directly to the customer as well as in upscale stores. The NOORISM customer is fashion forward, willing to spend a premium for a special item of clothing, and is environmentally conscious.
You should refer to your mood board when you are defining your design aesthetics and style.
For NOORISM, my aesthetic is a classic silhouette with minimalist details and almost everything is denim blue.
3. Find the right material to upcycle
The materials you are using to upcycle are critical to your design. My NOORISM pieces are designed with non-stretch classic vintage denim in mind. Finding those secondhand jeans is one of the most important parts of the whole process. If I don’t have the materials, then I won’t have the product. I look for men’s jeans in really large sizes. Those are less desirable to the vintage stores and to the consumers that are shopping for secondhand clothing, so there are lots of them out there and they provide larger areas of cuttable space.
The most efficient way to find what you are looking for is to thrift for yourself. Try to find a category in which it will be relatively easy to source a large amount of similar items, such as t-shirts, flannel shirts, bed sheets etc. You can also check out my free guide to finding upcycled materials to help get you started: FREE GUIDE
The other challenge with upcycling is the limited area of usable fabric within a second hand garment. Your final design can help maximize the efficiency of working with your chosen materials. For example, for NOORISM jackets, I add an extra seam on the sleeves and sometimes I leave the original side seam to allow for a larger piece of fabric to cut from. It is possible to use the entire garment without producing any waste with proper planning and imagination.
If you are looking for more guidance on starting and growing your own upcycled brand, I recommend checking out my Upcycle Design Masterclass where I have put together a whole program to help you get started including worksheets you can download and fill out to help you get organized with your plan.
FREE GUIDE to Finding Upcycled Materials
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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