Eco-Innovations: Upcycling Design Contests


Upcycling is a transformative creative process and an effective technique to curb waste; opening opportunities in the form of design contests and challenges, it serves as a powerful platform that spotlights exceptional talent while spreading awareness and interest in sustainable creations. Below are some creative contests organised by brands highlighting the awareness of upcycling and showcase talents in various forms.


India's Circular Design Challenge, presented by R|Elan, a brand under the Reliance Industries conglomerate specialising in innovative fabrics, in collaboration with the United Nations in India, is the largest award for Circular Fashion. This platform allows fashion & accessory designers to showcase products with Circularity as the main design principle, treating waste as an important resource. For the first time, this challenge has opened its competition to international designers.

(Image Credit: Circular Design Challenge 2023)
The finalists from India include 'Without', which recycles discarded multilayered plastics to produce the world's first sunglasses made from recycled chip packets; 'Studio Medium', a zero-waste brand that upcycles textile waste; and 'Banofi + Studio Beej', renowned for their banana leather crafted from banana stem waste and recycled polymers. The winner receives 15 lakh rupees and an exclusive opportunity at the Lakme Fashion Week.


Umbro, an England-based sportswear brand, introduced its 'Make New 2023 Upcycling Campaign', celebrating the art of upcycling. They invited talented creators to display their skills and provided chosen participants with a mystery box filled with Umbro products to be transformed creatively. The winner will earn a spot on Umbro's global influencers team and participate in upcycling initiatives and challenges for a year.   

(Image Credit: Umbro Make New Campaign, Umbro-egor.wear)


Vissla, a UK-based clothing brand, joined forces with the Surfrider Foundation for the 'Creators & Innovators 2023 Upcycle Contest', under the tagline 'Converting Waste Into Want'. The competition challenged participants to craft wave-riding equipment such as surfboards, fins, or boats entirely from waste materials. Last year's finalists showcased innovative surfboards crafted from materials like salvaged boats, scrap wood, glass, and Venetian blinds, drawing entries from around the globe.

(Image Credit: Vissla + Surfrider - Creators and Innovators Contest)


Miami Swim Week partnered with Love for Upcycling, an online platform dedicated to upcycling artists. They launched a global competition inviting design students to showcase their innovative upcycled resort and swimwear creations. For the 2023 July show, they sought the top 12 designs. The eligibility was exclusive to those enrolled in design schools, and the criteria required designs to incorporate 95% upcycled materials. Participants also had to submit a one-minute video detailing the materials used in their design.

(Image Credit: Miami Swim Week® x Love for Upcycling)


Singapore Airlines launched an upcycling project in 2021, repurposing materials from retired aircraft to prevent them from ending up in landfills. This initiative aimed to support educational institutions, local artists, sculptors, and individuals with disabilities. The first intiative as part of the project began with the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), where they jointly organised the "SUTD x SIA Upcycling Challenge 2021/2022" to raise awareness of upcycling among students.

(Image Credit: Singapore Airlines, Singapore University of Technology and Design, Gavinn Foo)

The airline donated retired aircraft materials to be integrated as hands-on learning resources in various courses. The challenge produced inventive outcomes as students transformed these materials into bags, furniture, home decor, and even dog accessories.


In 2015, Hawaiian Airlines introduced an innovative upcycling challenge titled 'Cabin to Couture.' They collaborated with the Honolulu Community College's Fashion Technology Program, challenging students to transform first-class and coach seat materials into fashionable wearables. The talented participants crafted unique jackets, cocktail dresses, strapless tops, skirts, and tote bags, showcasing their ingenuity. This eco-friendly collection later graced the runway at Honolulu Fashion Week, highlighting sustainable fashion practices.

(Image Credit: Hawaiiain Airlines Cabin to Couture, Gallery)

In this age of environmental consciousness, brands and organisations that launch such events play a crucial role in unveiling hidden talents, while simultaneously advancing sustainability and innovative craftsmanship.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.