4 green designers upcycling trash into treasure

Some eco-conscious designers are using would-be waste materials for their creations – and the results are as stylish as they are innovative. Here are a few of our favourites…
4 green designers upcycling trash into treasure
February 10, 2017   |    Balance team


If you saw the raw materials (such as the aluminium ring pull on the top of your beer can) you’d wonder how on Earth they could ever form the basis of high-end fashion accessories, but Bottletop has somehow turned up-cycling into an awe-inspiring art form.

Pieces are designed in London and intricately handcrafted in Salvador, by a growing team of previously disenfranchised artisans (mainly single mothers). Proceeds fund the Bottletop Foundation, which empowers disadvantaged young people to take control of their lives through health education and vocational training projects.

What started in 2002 with a Mulberry collaboration has gone on to become an award-winning sustainable luxury brand. Further collaborations have followed with the likes of Fenchurch, the (RED) campaign, DKNY, Narciso Rodriguez and former head of design at Louis Vuitton, Vincent du Sartel.

Supermodels continue to show their allegiance to this philanthropic brand, especially brand ambassador Lais Ribeiro.

For the costumes showcased in the Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony, Bottletop won many hearts by pairing its signature drink can ring pulls with up-cycled Swarovski crystals.

Certified Amazon Rainforest Zero Deforestation leather forms part of the design-led showcase.



A name that has become synonymous with utilitarian, upcycled fashion. His collections regularly grace the major catwalks while his quirky accessories cheer-up some of the most proudly design-led boutiques.

Each garment is #ReMadeInEngland, or, more specifically, meticulously handmade in east London, from repurposed textiles, including military fabrics (sourced throughout Europe) and surplus parachute silks.

One of the four ‘r’s according to US Vogue (‘reduce, reuse, recycle, Raeburn’), this passionate collaborator has partnered with an eclectic mix of brands, ranging from Rapha, Fred Perry, Barbour and MCM, to Lavazza, and, most recently, Clarks.



Each Elvis and Kresse creation (‘product’ doesn’t seem to do justice), is unique, trans-seasonal and made to last. Handcrafted in a mill in Kent, bags range from classic totes, smart briefcases and weekend carry-alls to super durable washbags (a thoughtful addition on ‘For Him’ lists). Equally impressive are their ‘leave-on-your-fave-jeans’ type of belts.

The original core range is based on de-commissioned British fire brigade hoses, which, after long and honourable careers fighting fires and saving lives, have been given a new, fashionable lease of life.

Eco-entrepreneurs, Kresse Wesling MBE and James ‘Elvis’ Henrit, discovered this ‘truly remarkable, truly green textile’ and founded Elvis & Kresse in 2007, with the aim of creating ‘a luxury social enterprise that redefines waste’. Since then they have been selling in some of the most prestigious stores, winning awards and have expanded to harness other forms of waste, collected from across the UK.

Elvis & Kresse re-distributes 50% of profits to projects and charities related to the materials it reclaims. Half the profits from its fire hose range are donated to the Fire Fighters Charity.


She turns piles of unwanted clothing into bespoke garments, prized by her male and female private clients.

One of the original London-based up-cyclers, Annika was one half of Junky Styling which opened in 1997 (dedicated fashionistas will remember it) and is also the author of Wardrobe Surgery (£21.99, A&C Black Publishers).

Annika was commissioned by conductor Charles Hazlewood to create a bespoke suit for his tribute to David Bowie at Glastonbury. Classic designs are re-imagined in Annika’s work and her customers are able to create their ideal garments – for a high-end price, of course.

The fabric, the colour, the cut and the embellishments are all open to personal choice, and then tailored to perfection – a dream for those who want a unique outfit.

Read more: 3 ethical food companies to inspire your business plan


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