Upcycling has always been the most effective way of creating truly unique pieces of clothing, as well as being one of the most sustainable ways of making clothes, period. And in recent seasons, brands haven't shied away from delving into their deadstock for new collections – look to Gabriela Hearst and Collina Strada as exemplars – as they see that beautiful fabrics still remain so, even if they've lived another life.  

Taking this concept a step further, by building sustainable practices into a company that also supports young talent, is Nina Van Volkinburg, with her latest venture, RETURE. Having only launched last week, the start-up is on a mission to change the way we shop with their waste-free business, having created an upcycling platform that connects customers to designers to revitalise previously owned pieces. "The beauty of this venture is that you are working directly with a craftsperson to really appreciate their own style and aesthetic, while injecting that sensibility into something you already own," shares Volkinburg to our EIC, Caroline Issa, in the latest issue of TANK. "So it’s not adding more waste into the environment or creating new, virgin materials but using the value you already have in your wardrobe." 

Volkinburg upcycled the dress on the left into the top and trousers on the right through RETURE.

And it's not just your average joe that'll be reinterpreting your clothes into something you want to wear today, RETURE have already got on board some of the most exciting graduate designers, like Duran Lantink, to be at sartorial service. By using young designers, RETURE are giving a platform for those who are often overlooked. "There are 4,000 graduates in fashion design in the UK annually, but only about 500 jobs," says Volkinburg. "So there’s a lot of talent that goes to waste, which we want to try to capture." 

As well as offering these designers an income, they're also able to upcycle with a new perspective that honours the sentimental history of the garment. "I upcycled a dress that belonged to my 83-year-old neighbour, which she wore to parties back in the 1970s. I shared that story with the designer and it then influenced how she transformed that garment from a ball gown into high-waisted flares and a cropped shirt." It seems that the term, out with the old, in with the new, has taken a new and sustainable meaning

To have your clothes upcycled on RETURE, follow the link here.

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