Written by Hannah Cole
Primarily driven by a desired look — harking back to hippie influences — patchwork is now explored among luxury and high street alike.
You know we love a good upcycling story here. Not only is it evidence of talent, creativity and the push for a renewed fashion industry, but for the first time in decades, we’ve had to consider scarcity. Living in the era of online retailers has driven a false lull of same-day deliveries and ample wardrobes. Pivot to early 2020 and everyday necessities became hot commodities overnight — toilet paper and rice were worth their weight in gold.
Speaking to my grandparents, they can’t recall a time so fraught and “unprecedented” in their lives. They grew up in the shadows of WWII and the Great Depression but, at such a young age, barely felt the immediate effects. However, rationing, repurposing and using telephone directories for anything but their intended purpose was commonplace.
I have found myself wondering how rationing would work now if it did ever come to that. Would our affluence and ability to purchase nearly anything at the touch of a fingertip leave us comatose or tantrum-riddled? Have we excluded all the necessary learnings of the past and pre-empted our downfall?
The throwaway culture of today would have us believe that once something has served its purpose — no matter how brief the period — it has to go. Marie Kondo has us convinced; if it doesn’t “spark joy” then bye-bye. Limp vegetables and stale bread are swept into the garbage when they could be the basis of the next delicious minestrone or crouton-laden salad. Jackets and blouses with missing buttons, trousers with loose hems, and knits with tiny holes — they’re too hard to deal with so we store them away, donate to charity, or worse, toss in the bin.
Maybe we need a bit of a scarcity kick up the bum.
Throughout history, patchwork has held an important place in the home. During the 1800s, early American settlers would reuse and repurpose fabrics, breathing new life into old worn clothes and household textiles. When money was scarce, pieces already in their possession were a saviour for quilted warmth. Repeat this story whenever hardship was endured — during wars, the Great Depression, etc. Patchwork became not only a method to reuse (upcycling before it became cool), but an expression of creativity.
In the present day, patchwork is creeping back into favour. Primarily driven by a desired look — harking back to hippie influences — patchwork is now explored among luxury and high street alike: Prada, Ganni, Zara, just for starters. Some brands, however, are taking the overall notion of patchwork and running with it. Instead of looking to please a certain aesthetic, these labels are embracing the credentials and historical meaning. It’s fashion, but upcycled, or sustainably sourced. It’s a reflection of scarcity when society tells us to overindulge and become gluttonous fashion fiends.
Bode is arguably the most well-known label taking upcycled patchwork creations and presenting them on a high-fashion platter, but many other designers are following suit. Keep an eye on these creatives:
The US-based upcycling label offers custom quilt jackets — literally, jackets made from quilts. Each piece is one of a kind, made to order, and determined by you. You can even choose to supply your own quilt for reimagining into a coat of your choosing. If nana’s blanket is no longer fit for bed, you know where to go.
Pentimento believes that vintage and repurposed materials should be viewed as precious — they are rare and beautiful and have a story to tell. Nods to patchworking are evident throughout the store with quilt tops, jackets, teddies and totes in the bold colours we need today.
More quilt coats because clearly, we can’t get enough. Farewell Frances acknowledges the beauty in taking forgotten scraps and making something beautiful, keeping it out of the trash. Cute patchwork masks are also making their presence known because, well, COVID.
Available on Matches, Rave Review is another luxury patchwork darling uniting scraps with the fashion-forward. The Swedish label upcycles vintage fabrics and finds to create delicate, soft-hued one-off pieces including coats, shorts, shirts and hats. Bedsheets have never looked so glam.
How could we forget our Instagram-stopping denim label, Ksenia Schnaider? Famed for the iconic Demi-Denims and Asymmetrical Jeans, sustainability and re-working denim while making a statement are in the brands’ DNA. Shop upcycled, patchwork denim pieces — shirts, jackets, pants, even berets — and give a new taste to the classic jeans and shirt combo.
Jacket by BODE.
Shorts by Rave Review.
Shoulder Bag by Prada.
Chore Jacket by Pentimento.