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Cigarette butts, oyster sacks, airbags: the craziest objects that have been transformed into fashion pieces

There are few fashion companies that have not already jumped on the upcycling wave, a process that consists of transforming waste or unused objects into more attractive products or materials

Published: Mar 19, 2022 09:00:00 AM IST
Updated: Mar 17, 2022 01:49:43 PM IST

Cigarette butts, oyster sacks, airbags: the craziest objects that have been transformed into fashion piecesImage: Photography Lea Rae / Shutterstock

Upcycling is one of the ways the fashion industry is trying to reduce the mountain of waste it generates each year, and thus lessen its impact on the environment. But upcycling can be surprisingly effective in transforming some of the most polluting everyday objects into highly desirable garments. Here are three that might inspire you ahead of World Recycling Day.

There are few fashion companies which have not already jumped on the upcycling wave, a process that consists of transforming waste or unused objects into more attractive products or materials. It's a form of recycling "from scratch," as some ready-to-wear brands themselves say to describe the process. While several fashion houses and labels have made it their signature, like Koché, others have quickly taken the plunge to give their fabric scraps a second life. But lately, brands and start-ups have started creating upcycled pieces from some ultra-surprising materials and products.

A puffer jacket made of cigarette butts


You can see them strewn all over the ground in the largest cities as well as in the smallest villages in France. Cigarette butts are a real polluting nuisance, with more than 23 billion discarded on the ground or in nature each year in France, according to the country's Ministry of Ecological Transition. It takes several years for them to completely decompose— years that augment their impact on the environment, nature and oceans. Faced with this fact, a French start-up has launched a major challenge: collect them and transform them into puffer jackets.

A French startup that goes by the name TchaoMegot is responsible for this innovative idea.

Not content with simply making consumers aware of the pollution generated by cigarette butts, they collect them, usually having been burnt, and then clean them using an ecological and neutral process, without toxic solvents or water, to get rid of any toxic substance or smell. The final step is the transformation. The startup transforms the butts into eco-designed insulation used in the building industry as well as for the stuffing of puffer jackets.

An it-bag made from oyster sacks


The story of the brand Les Pochons, founded by Mathilde, began on the Cotentin coast in northwest France. The brand aims to recycle the oyster sacks often found on the beaches.

The goal? To transform these polluting objects into fashionable handbags to be worn out on the town or at the beach. The entrepreneur manages to do this by recovering the unused bags from oyster farmers, along with other things.

Known for their durability, the oyster sacks are first completely cleaned before being given a second life as handbags, tote bags, or satchels. In 'raw' or colored form, the bags are designed in limited edition "based on the nature of the recovered materials," as can be seen on the official online store. Everything is handmade for a unique look. The brand is now working on collaborations, which add an even more fashionable touch to the design of each of the creations.

Airbags and windshields made into shorts and hoodies


With its Re:Style project, South Korean car manufacturer Hyundai has also embraced upcycling. For its latest collection, unveiled a few months ago, the idea was to transform materials from car manufacturing into a ready-to-wear collection, mixing design and functionality. But Hyundai didn't stop at using upcycled materials, it also introduced eco-friendly materials, including organic PET and hanji—a traditional Korean paper, which can be found in the Hyundai Ioniq 5—to bring a touch of comfort to the clothes.

The result is a collection of clothing including shorts, sweatshirts, hoodies, and sweatpants made from airbags, windshields, seat leather, carpets, and seat belts. The collection is no longer available, but it should be getting a new edition soon.

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