Deadstock fashion: Meet the brands' upcycling fashion designs to make them look better than new

If zero waste is the goal, these brands are well on the way . . .

A model wears ELV Denim jeans and a shirt
(Image credit: E.L.V Denim)

When it comes to creating a sustainable wardrobe, it’s super important to make the most of—and wear—what you already have and to shop second hand. Making a considered purchase from an ethical fashion brand is equally important—as our money is our vote. If we don’t support ethical creators, they simply won’t exist any longer.

The following brands operate a circular approach; upcycling, or creating new clothes from old garments and waste textiles, aka deadstock. It’s not a new idea, though some of these designers really take it to another level . . .

1. Phoebe English

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Phoebe English built her brand into a London Fashion Week fixture by crafting garments from pre and post-consumer textile waste, reducing textiles going to landfill. Her beautiful, timeless pieces in dark and light neutrals include; considered tailored shirts, dresses, coats and flowing trousers which are size inclusive.

You can buy on a pre-order basis, which eliminates further waste - and treat yourself to an elegant forever piece.

2. Chopova Lowena

Designer duo Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena founded truly one of the coolest labels around, counting Rosalia, Julia Fox, and original cool girl, Chloe Sevigny among its admirers. They juxtapose folklore and sportswear, utilising recycled materials and deadstock textiles, like pillowcases and aprons, all ethically produced in Bulgaria. Save up for one of their carabiner kilts; it’ll last a lifetime and look equally perfect with a punk hoodie or a classic navy sweater.

3. Tega Akinola

Until the pandemic, Tega Akinola was an influencer posting sportswear fits on Instagram. During lockdown, she experimented with customizing high heels and other accessories with fabrics cut from sportswear, posting her first project in 2020. Her designs caught on online and now she has an amazingly cute range of mini handbags covered in upcycled fleece jackets, to uplift any look.

4. E.L.V Denim

A stroke of genius—splicing together vintage jeans to create a sharply tailored new pair from luxury fashion stylist, Anna Foster. Stocked by Liberty and other boutiques, they have recently expanded into menswear and shirting, also made from textile waste (former hotel sheets) crafted in their East London Atelier. They’ll also make-to-order if you don’t see your size available.

5. A.W.A.K.E Mode

Former fashion editor and stylist Natalia Alaverdian’s brand A.W.A.K.E Mode brings a touch of the avant-garde to the everyday, with art-like pieces outside of the trend cycle. The brand has a number of sustainable policies, including use of recycled polyester and GOTS cotton and linen. This capsule collection of denim pieces is created from upcycled denim garments.

6. BEEN London

Founder Genia Mineeva was once a political journalist at the BBC. Dismayed by her findings when reporting on waste and recycling, she resolved to make a change, studying Sustainable Value Chains at Cambridge University. Thinking of recycling materials rescued from landfill, she studied Accessories Design at London College of Fashion and combined with an independent bag-maker in East London to launch BEEN London. Check out their slick luxury leather bags made from tannery offcuts and trimmings that would have otherwise been discarded.


Fanfare Label founder, Esther Knight, spent a decade as a fashion buyer for high street and designer brands, becoming disillusioned the fashion industry’s exploitation of garment workers and the planet. Working with recycling plants, she set up Fanfare Label, a circular fashion brand producing upcycled garments, especially one-off jeans, denim skirts and bodices. They offer a made-to-order service and will accept your old garments for upcycling.

8. Freya Simonne

After 10 years as a High Street fashion designer, Freya Rabet was burnt out and unhappy with the industry’s unsustainable practices. She wanted to use her considerable skills more ethically and thus Freya Simonne (her middle name and Grandmother’s name) was born. She exclusively uses vintage textiles, protecting the earth’s resources whilst creating one-off forever pieces. Think quilted jackets, flowing dresses and tops all upcycled from stunning vintage materials. Freya also accepts made-to-order commissions.

9. Toast Renewed

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TOAST Renewed pieces are created from damaged items from Toast shops and customers returns. The collection supports a circular approach, with the in-house repair team painstakingly mending each garment, with unique visible stitching and patches. The prices reflect the original value plus time taken by repair specialists. You can also bring your own worn and damaged Toast clothing item to a shop to be repaired free of charge.

10. Elvis & Kresse

Elvis & Kresse bags, luggage and accessories are made from decommissioned fire-hose (yes really) - a hardwearing, vegan material (“vegan leather” is literally plastic and not very eco) plus leather offcuts that would otherwise be thrown away. Their Weekend Bag is handmade fire-hose with a lining from material rescued from Burberry and military-grade parachute silk. Each bag is totally unique, no two are ever the same. The skinny belt is fire-hose with an antique silver belt, and is size inclusive. If you don’t see your size, you can order made-to-measure. 50% of profits go to The Fire Fighters Charity.

Naomi Attwood

Naomi Attwood is a writer, editor and creative with over a decade's experience. She has written for a range of titles, from Dazed, AnOther and i-D to Grazia and Elle UK, and spent seven years as a contributor to The Independent. She covers fashion, beauty and visual culture with an emphasis on sustainability.