Reet Aus redefines upcycling

Johan Arnø Kryger
Posted on
Thursday, 7 March 2013
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During a Baltic workshop in Tallinn on textile waste designer Reet Aus and her partner in Aus Design, Markus Vihma, presented their newest Trash To Trend Upcycled Collection, the world’s first mass produced collection from production leftovers.

The Upcycled Collection designed by Reet Aus is the world's first demonstration of textile waste upcycling in mass production, offering products that are made with 70% less water and 64% less energy per garment and have at least 40% less production waste. They have been working with the Beximco company in Bangladesh, which is one of the largest vertically integrated companies in the region and since they were doing a research project on the actual textile waste in the factory they decided to mass-produce a collection from roll-ends, excess fabric, cutting-leftovers and over-production.

Having worked with textile waste from production and found that since much of it ends up needed to be cleaned, they decided on a system where the production is planned at the same time as the production of the collections where the waste occurs; which brings down the energy- and water-use to a bare minimum. The Estonian designer Reet Aus has been working with upcycling and redesign, along with textile waste from production for years and her eye for utilizing scraps and unused resources has resulted in a collection which actually can be mass-produced.

They produced items with textile waste from Zara and Macy’s, as a show-case and part of Reet's research; and in their own collection they will be labeling each item with the water- and energy-savings that the stylish pieces actually achieve. One example high-lighted cites the “normal” piece of apparel using 1200 liters of water to be produced, while using the left-over item represents only 200 liters of water.

“There is no waste-management in Bangladesh,” according to Reet and added that of 8000 factories five have water-treatment. They also have to MA students looking at the possibility of using over-production in a similar way. Beximco produces 56 million pieces annually for Zara H&M, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, to mention some with 30.000 workers on two shifts. Before Reet started to work with the excess fiber and cut-offs; they had no idea where the textile waste went. Most was sent to China, dumped to land-fill or burned. Reet has simultaneously been working on a documentary which is being edited on the working conditions in the factory, and on the chemicals in the clothes that are produced there.

“If one is using just waste fabric, one really doesn’t know anything about the content or how the fabric has been produced, in this situation we know everything about the input into the garments,” Reet explained. “But the un-predictability of the actual waste is a factor that we will have to deal with,” she admitted.

They are also looking for partners who want to reuse their textile waste in new and creative ways to ensure even more of an up-take on Trash to Trend.