Reinventing Fashion - How Recycled Rubber is Used in the Clothing Industry
Posted by: Dan on 25/02/2016
The 21st century has brought about new challenges – and the need for creative solutions to these challenges – in our daily lives. For instance, our changing environment has spurred the growing desire to make the best use of our natural resources – particularly the desire to find a new purpose for used tyres.
One of the biggest ways this is taking shape is within the world of fashion.
There are many factors that make recycled rubber an appealing material for use in couture. Here’s an inside look at the recycling process and a few companies that are embracing this unique material as an element in fashion.
First, used tyres are collected from a supplier, seller, or even the garbage tip. The tyres are then devulcanised, or stripped down, while retaining their basic elastic composition and form. What happens next can vary depending on the designer's needs. But whether the material is needed for shoelaces, shoe treads, on accessories such as belts and earrings – or even to feature in clothing along cuffs and collars – the flexibility of the material means there are countless designs into which old tyres can be incorporated.
Easy access to materials
Historically, one of the greatest challenges for many fashion houses has been the sourcing and creation of garments made with rare materials. From Merino wool farmed in Australia, to Egyptian cotton grown along the Nile, to silk produced in the mountains of China, designers encounter multiple challenges while working with such materials.
This could mean anything from shortages to a downturn in quality, or factors involving shipping and transporting. While these materials will always be valued, some designers have set their sights on materials that are easier to obtain. Recycled tyres make a great base material, given their wide availability. In Australia alone, there are an estimated 52 million tyres a year reaching the end of their life expectancy.
Another great advantage of tyres is their sturdy composition. Designers using rare and delicate materials such as silk find that it can quickly become very expensive if a garment’s creation process is complex and errors in its creation occur – as they unavoidably will.
It may be surprising to think that designers make that many mistakes during production – especially the world-famous names that regularly appear on runways – but the existence of stores like Direct Factory Outlet – that sell goods with factory defects – shows that making a perfect piece each time is nearly impossible. Recycled rubber, on the other hand, is flexible, durable, and – most importantly – can be reused over and over again.
From a small business point of view, tyres are a real asset for beginners in the fashion world. While the giants of the style industry may have the budgets to make mistakes, for up-and-coming designers, the chance to showcase their skills by using affordable materials is essential.
Using recycled rubber offers an enormous opportunity for those just beginning to cut their teeth in the industry.
Here’s how a few fashionistas are using old tyres in great new ways:
Upcycle Studio is a Sydney-based fashion retailer that has had an online presence since 2013, and opened up a brick-and-mortar in 2015. Creating its fashion pieces from a variety of repurposed materials, Upcycle acquires old truck and bike tubes for use in many of its contemporary designs that range from handbags and wallets to cushions – and even vintage-style radios.
Going beyond the familiar is Adelaidean artist Dell Plumber. Using old rubber in extravagant designs, Plumber’s creations are highly-stylised and glamourous, while at the same time keeping the dark colours and sleek lines of the tyre within her final creations. While it’s unlikely you’ll see one of Dell’s designs the next time you're at a weekend cricket match, the fact that that she has taken old, used tyres and turned them into very stylish high-fashion pieces is a tremendous testament to innovation.
Ecoalf is one of the largest recycled rubber outfitters in the world. Headquartered in Madrid, with a presence around the world, Ecoafl’s mission is “to create the first generation of recycled products with the same quality, design and technical properties as the best non-recycled product.” Offering everything from jackets and shoes to bags and laptop covers, this is a brand that uses recycled rubber brilliantly, and has crafted a very unique brand to boot.
The of the most appealing aspects of the fashion industry making use of recycled rubber is the positive impact it’s having on the environment.
There are many new uses for old tyres. While big debates about climate change and the environment are ongoing, it’s hard not to see the benefits of tyre recycling in the fashion industry. Reusing tyre materials has given design houses access to cheaper materials and lowered costs, while also shrinking the environmental impact and the cost of disposing of these materials.
When it comes to old tyres being reused by the fashion industry, it’s clearly a win-win for all sides. Positive outcomes like these will never go out of style.
Do you own any garments with materials made out of tyres? Have you ever made a DIY piece of clothing using tyres? Let us know in the comments below: