The Power of Upcycling: Transforming The Unexpected With Lydia Bolton

Today we have the pleasure of being joined by fashion designer and content creator Lydia Bolton.  She is the founder of the eponymous luxury, sustainable brand that epicycles unwanted, sleeping stock and deadstock textiles into covetable womenswear.

What first made you interested in upcycling as a designer and content creator?

After a few years of working as a fashion designer in industry, I realised I wanted my career to reflect my personal values. In my personal life, I was really conscious about trying to live in a more sustainable way and mainly shopped 2nd hand. My mum is a committed eco-warrier so I had been brought up in a very eco-conscious household where reusing and not wasting things was always part of the norm. 

So, I quit my job to pivot my career to be within sustainable fashion. I did an online course at The Centre of Sustainable Fashion where I learnt about all the different issues within fashion and sustainability and the vast issue of textile waste really stood out to me. I saw how I could use my skills as a designer and maker, to create my own, small solution and remake unwanted textiles into new things. And this is where the upcycling began! 

That is so interesting.  For those who aren’t sure, can you explain the concept of upcycling and why it is so significant in reducing waste and promoting sustainability in the fashion industry?

Upcycling is about remaking or giving a new life to an existing material so that it can be used for longer. “By extending the life span of an item of clothing by 9 months, we can reduce its carbon, water and waste footprint by 20-30%” [Fashion Revolution]. This quote shows us why it is so important to value and reuse the materials we have already produced and how by reusing them, we can still enjoy fashion but in a way that is less harmful to the planet. 

What are some of the key benefits of upcycling old clothes in terms of creating more individual style and unique fashion statements?

Upcycling allows you personalise your clothing so they are way more unique and reflective of your own style. It’s a great way to make your clothing a bit more unique and special.

 The more we love our clothing, the more we take care of them, wear them and want them to last for longer. 

What would you say is your most remarkable upcycled transformation?

I make patchwork cardigans which are made from knit swatches and they are always  such unique and fun pieces. Firstly, the transformation is really good as the cardigans are literally made from a patchwork of squares of fabric that knit suppliers produce as tests/ideas for buyers so they are easily discarded and very rarely reused (it is very labour intensive to reuse them!) They often have fun prints like bunnies or ducks and I really enjoy the creative process, arranging the colours and textures in each cardigan and each cardigan is a one-off. 

What is your creative process when upcycling clothes? Are there any specific techniques or considerations you use to ensure the final result is both fashionable and sustainable?

I let the fabric inform the design. For example, on the tablecloth shirts, I use the scalloped edge as the hem for the front, back and yoke and will cut and construct each shirt differently depending on the features of the tablecloth and to work with these. I also may need to add a little patch or embroidery to cover a stain or hole. I focus on making pieces that are playful and wearable so while being special, upcycled pieces, they are pieces that you can wear with your current wardrobe. 

What do you think are some common misconceptions or challenges people face when it comes to upcycling their own clothes? 

Don’t worry about it being perfect when you start. Part of the charm of upcycling is the DIY aspect of it which lends itself perfectly to things being a little messy and visibly hand made. And come to an upcycling workshop if you want to learn new skills! 

It doesn’t need to be a transformation. Upcycling can be a really small thing like adding an embroidery or patch to the front of an old t-shirt making it a bit more fun and then meaning you wear it more! I recently added a little cherry patch to the front of a vest (Ive had the vest for over 5 years and had stopped wearing it) but now its so cute with the cherries on and I’ve already worn it multiple times. 

What advice would you give to newbies who are interested in incorporating upcycled fashion into their personal style?

Start with doing some research and getting some inspo! Personally I love pinterest or TikTok for getting ideas and it will also keep you focused on the finished result as it can be easy to lose interest or get disheartened during the process if you don’t finish it in 1 day. I would also start with something easy and then work your way to up more complex things once you’ve gained some confidence with it. This could be doing a patch over a hole or stain, or embroidery on an old tee to give it a refresh.

Follow Lydia @lydiabolton_ or check out her creations here.

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