As it should, the popularity of sustainable fashion keeps growing — here is our edit of Scandinavian upcycling brands you need to have on your radar
Everything to do with sustainability in fashion may sound like buzzwords and phrases, but the concept of 'upcycling' is nothing new. The word means to take disused or discarded items to make something that is of higher value or quality than the original product.
Similar to recycling, which simply means the reuse of an item in some way, upcycling is a straightforward and environmentally-friendly way to engage with resources. After all, if we simply found ways to reuse all textile and other products that were already created, we would have far less waste on wouldn't put as much strain on the environment.
Here is a comprehensive list of the Nordic fashion brands that upcycle:
Denmark’s original sustainable brand, Designers, Remix launched in 2002. The label use vintage and deadstock fabric throughout their collections and have been a key element of pushing sustainability forward in the Danish fashion industry through advocacy, visibility, and events, as well as their own clothing.
Photo: Designers, Remix
The perfect encapsulation of upcycling, Danish designer Bettina Bakdal makes dresses from luxury scarves and other textiles. The results are gorgeous, colourful and totally luxe dresses with a stunning fluidity and drape.
Photo: Bettina Bakdal
Bartels Since 1920
Originally founded in 1920, owner Eva Bartels re-launched her family shoe business in 2017. She produces small batches of shoes in a family-run factory in Italy using deadstock fabric and occasional artist collaborations. Her first collection even used vintage Italian parasol fabric; how glamorous is that?! Her shoes are unique and beautifully-made.
Launched by fashion designer Maikel Tawadros in 2018, Arv is inspired by the past, literally; the idea came to Maikel when he found an old Danish military shirt at a flea market. His pieces are timeless but with small quirks or details that make them stand out. He doesn’t do seasonal drops, instead opting for a slower pace. Arv utilises deadstock and leftover fabric in the majority of its pieces.
Founded in 2014, Organic Basics was originally created to make high-quality and sustainable items like underwear and socks. They’ve since expanded into multiple product categories including denim and winter accessories, but their sustainable values remain. They upcycle wool and cashmere into a variety of products. They use recycled nylon in their activewear and recycled plastic bottles in their swimwear.
Photo: Organics Basics
This Denmark-based brand only using deadstock and pre-existing materials to create their workwear-inspired, unisex collections. There’s a definite DIY look to (di)vision, but it adds to the feeling of a truly handmade, thoughtfully-designed product.
Couture meets upcycling with Swedish cult-favourite brand Rave Review. The brand makes textiles of all kinds — from clothes to bedding to other home goods — into fun, elevated designs. Rave Review proves that upcycling can truly create something greater than the sum of its parts. Just check out their puffer jackets!
Photo: Rave Review
Leather is a material that straddles many sustainability conversations, from resource-usage to animal rights. Deadwood makes their gorgeous, timeless leather goods from “rescued deadstock skins, repurposed vintage clothing and upcycled post-production waste.” The result is leather jackets, skirts and more, that you’ll have for a lifetime and will age beautifully.
Is punk dead? Not if Ingrid Berg, the founder of Stockholm-based Iggy Jeans, has anything to say about it. Iggy Jeans offers a range of vintage denim that’s been painted with wild colours and patterns, giving it a DIY feel that’s both playful and thoughtful.
Photo: Iggy Jeans
Beloved Finnish textile brand Marimekko has been making clothes and other home products since 1951. They don’t exclusively use upcycling, but they do produce a handful of upcycled and recycled items each season. Marimekko focuses on timeless silhouettes, graphic art, and high-quality production; they also love to dip into their archive and bring back their own vintage patterns.
Norwegian brand Ilag makes great outerwear, winter accessories, jumpers and other basic items — always with extra details to make them special and playful. Ilag uses deadstock and leftover fabrics and yarns throughout their collections.
Frankremme was founded in 2014 by seasoned Norwegian designer Frank Remme — formerly of brands like Christian Lacroix. His love for the dramatic flourish has carried through to his own work, where minimalist Scandinavian style blends with oversized embellishments, particularly his signature cuffs. Frankremme uses deadstock fabric and makes extremely limited quantities based on fabric availability.
This Icelandic swimwear brand celebrates Icelandic bathing culture — an important element of social life in Iceland — while sticking to Scandinavian design principles. Sleek, minimalist silhouettes ensure their swimwear is timeless and chic. Swimslow uses leftover fabric from luxury Italian brands to create high-quality items that last for years. Dive in!
Photo: Marsy Hild