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From trash to treasure: the chic and creative world of Upcycle Nation

2023 is shaping up to be the year sustainability becomes sexy, and Upcycle Nation, a new FuseTV reality show, is leading the charge by showcasing how upcycling can be trendy and innovative.


The fashion industry is notorious for being one of the largest contributors to pollution, but that might be changing. Sustainability is finally in fashion, and it's more stylish than ever. Creatives worldwide are taking a stand against the industry's wasteful practices, and one TV show is leading the charge.


Upcycle Nation, a new reality TV series from FuseTV, showcases the art of upcycling. The show invites designers and artists to compete in turning everyday items into wearable fashion, such as transforming a chambelan suit into a hoodie or a potato sack into fashion-forward pants. The contestants' creations are reminiscent of Project Runway, but with a more eco-friendly twist. Upcycling is all about giving new life to old or discarded items, diverting them from the landfill and reducing our carbon footprint.


Upcycle Nation

Tiffany Butler, better known as Dumpster Diving Mama, is leading a different kind of movement on social media. Butler, a dumpster diver, sifts through company trash to expose wasteful practices. In one viral video, Butler discovered slashed and trashed Coach purses thought to be destroyed by employees. After the video gained attention, Coach promised to no longer dump unsold bags. Butler says she loves that she's making a change and getting "free stuff, of course."



Sustainability isn't just about repurposing old items. It's also about finding new eco-friendly ways to create clothes. Suzanne Lee, a designer focusing on future technologies, has created a BioCouture jacket made from growing millions of tiny bacteria in green tea baths. As the microorganisms consume sugar molecules in the tea, they spin fibers made from cellulose, which become thick sheets of "fabric." This innovative process reduces the need for cotton manufacturing, which has a high environmental cost.


NNN / Suzanne Lee wants to live in a sustainable material world. Built with biology, not oil Visit
Suzanne Lee wants to live in a sustainable material world. Built with biology, not oil

Franklin Zepeda, founder of Ecofiber, is also revolutionizing the fashion industry in Latin America. Zepeda's company transforms textile waste into insulation panels for low-cost housing construction. To date, the company has recycled around 8% of the discarded clothes on Atacama's fast-fashion mountain.


How Eco Fibra is tackling the fashion dumpster in the Chilean Desert
How Eco Fibra is tackling the fashion dumpster in the Chilean Desert

Adeju Thompson, founder of the non-binary fashion label Lagos Space Programme, is looking to his culture's traditional clothing patterns and natural dyes, like indigo, to create modern pieces. Thompson is part of a growing movement of young, contemporary designers drawing from the past to create zero-waste designs.


Adeju Thompson is bringing genderless Nigerian fashion to the world
Adeju Thompson is bringing genderless Nigerian fashion to the world

The fashion industry is also starting to take notice. Copenhagen Fashion Week is leading the way in sustainability requirements. Brands must adhere to multiple sustainability requirements, including creating at least 50% of their collection from certified, preferred, upcycled or recycled materials. Attendees are given carbon credits to offset travel, and unsold clothes cannot be destroyed after the show.


Copenhagen Fashion Week

The EU has proposed reforms that will require companies to use recycled plastics, provide data on their environmental impact to crack down on greenwashing, levy taxes on carbon emissions, and drastically reduce waste. Ralph Lauren's first-of-its-kind cashmere recycling program recycles worn-out sweaters from any brand and gives them new life in clothing for not only RL but also brands like Filippa K, Eileen Fisher, Stella McCartney, and Patagonia.


Finally, digital fashion is taking off in Australia. Melbourne's digital fashion incubator project allows customers to try indie designers' clothing and accessories at home using AR filters. You can revamp your wardrobe, all from the comfort of your home.


Upcycling, sustainability, and eco-friendly fashion are the way of the future. With innovative designers and companies leading the way, we can all make a difference in reducing waste and pollution while still staying stylish.


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