ModaRévisé

Creative Studio

stella chang

Recycling - Upcycle and Downcycled

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“Say what…???”

That’s what I get when fashion clients approach my creative studio and ask about incorporating some aspect of recycling into their bags and accessories manufacturing process, and I ask in return, “Do you want upcycled materials or downcycled materials…?”

Fyi -If you want to be a well informed conscious consumer, or just want to sound smart to your peers, read up!

Let’s go back to the basics:

What is recycling? The easier definition is that it is a man-powered chemical process to convert waste into re-usable materials. Right now as we speak, we have the technology to recycle an array of waste materials ranging from fabrics of all kinds, PU, metals of all kinds, papers, and plastic bottles just to name a very few.

Photo courtesy of Lush Home

Photo courtesy of Lush Home

The recycling process consists of 2 parts, upcycling and downcycling.

Upcycling is the process where waste materials, such as plastic bottles, are transformed into another material with higher quality and better impact on the environment. In other words upcycling is a creative re-use of discarded materials for something else, such as building a sturdy home out of old scrap metal melted together with other junk to create a new hybrid construction material.

Photo courtesy of Upcycled Zine

Photo courtesy of Upcycled Zine

Downcycling, on the other hand, is a similar conversion of old material into new but in this case, the new hybrid material is usually of lesser quality. The hybrid polymer created out of two old materials may not bond as well, creating surface weakness that may result in structural breakage.

You may have guessed it by now, the defining difference between the two processes is $$$! Anytime you want to use any upcycled materials the unit price will always be more than the downcycled materials. Now you know why the two handbags made out of recycled materials that you bought months ago at $59.99 and $129.99, respectively, only one is still holding up after months of wear and tear. Chances are the $129.99 handbag is made of upcycled material.

Let’s take Everlane’s Renew Collection as a case study. Its mission is to use recycled plastic bottles as renewable materials in their products and packaging so that by 2021 there will be NO new plastic being used in Everlane.

Judging by the information I can find on their website and knowing the standard of quality of their line of products, I can say with confidence that Everlane most likely will work with plastic bottles that have gone through upcycling so that the new material has strongly bonded polymers that will offer higher quality products and healthier impact on the environment.

Photo Courtesy of Everlane

Photo Courtesy of Everlane

Now go out there and be the well informed smarty pants consumer that you are and hold fashion accountable! Everlane and its Renew Collection is only the beginning, but with each step we consumers take by supporting Everlane’s and other fashion companies’ recycling initiatives, it’ll be another firm step in establishing a mindful and responsible fashion-consumer relationship.



On The Challenge of US-China Tariffs: If You’re Not Solving Problems, Then You’re Not In Business…

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The past two weeks ModaRévisé has been re-assigning our handbag clients, new and old, to factories that have out-of-China facilities, such as Cambodia and Vietnam, in order to allay client fears of reduced margins as a consequence of the current US-China tariff dispute. If approved, US tariffs will affect all consumer handbags, small leather goods, and all other accessory items that are made in China. 

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In case you've been living in the dark ages, this tariff will jack up existing retail prices anywhere from 10% - 23%, depending on the type of materials (synthetic PU/PVC, leather, or fabrications) and the percentage of its usage per bag. And of course, no wise retailer will ask consumers to shoulder this 10% - 23% increase, thus the fear of loss of margin on the retailer's part. 

So ModaRévisé is scrambling to move production outside of China but it's not as simple as it sounds. We need to re-align the supply chain so that factories located outside of China can continue to procure quality materials and meet all delivery deadlines. For those that don't know, China is arguably the only country left that has a massive and well-developed infrastructure of supporting industries for handbags and accessories. From leathers, to Pu/PVC, nylon, canvas, embroidery farm, hardware molding, printing, silicon molding, anything you can imagine on a bag they have the network of supporting industries well established since 20 years ago. 

Dongguan, China

Dongguan, China

As a result, the majority of these components will still be developed in China, then shipped to our various factories in Vietnam or Cambodia. This can become a logistical and pricing nightmare if we don't manage the transition with extreme care. I get dizzy at the mere thought of a misstep, but this is the current reality of our business environment.

Leather may be from Indian but the rest still made in China. 

Leather may be from Indian but the rest still made in China. 

Thank goodness for a couple of things, however:

 1) ModaRévisé is supremely fortunate to have a strong teammates to work with to make this happen, especially our manufacturing partners who were prescient enough years ago to anticipate the risk of limiting their operations to China alone; 

2) If you’re not solving problems, then you’re not in business! This is, indeed, one of the greatest lessons I have learned from running my own business. As human as we are, it’s so easy to freak out when something so beyond our control, such as a looming international trade war, suddenly challenges everything we’ve worked hard to build.

But you know what? The sooner we can settle our fears and identify the things that we can control, the sooner we can see that even macroeconomic issues can be simplified, in a sense, and mined for problems that are within our means to address. In ModaRévisé’s case, for example, we were able to focus on working with manufacturing partners with facilities in countries without tariff risk.

There are certainly challenges with even that solution, but solving problems is what business is all about, isn’t it?