Retro Upcycle is a sustainable reconstruction brand based in Pakistan that hopes to empower and uplift underprivileged women by giving them an opportunity to earn a living with the aim to give clothes a second life.
Founder, Nida Haji has always been fascinated by design, colours, diverse fabrics and how simple tweaks can completely bring life to a piece that was dull and forgotten. During her university years, she and her friends would go thrifting and challenge each other to take the most absurd garment and DIY it to make it more appealing. This play of colour and creativity is what extends into her recently launched brand, Retro Upcycle, which repurposes vintage clothes to create contemporary garments, preventing them from being disposed into landfills.
Their collections include meticulously selected vintage pieces like denim jackets, jeans, branded sweatshirts, hoodies etc that are industrially cleaned and re-worked by women who upcycle each piece of clothing into a new, contemporary bespoke product. Every jacket is a unique piece and therefore each one has a unique bespoke meaningful design that is inspired from itself, It’s crafted to maintain its’ authenticity whilst creating a piece suitable for the contemporary modern man / woman.
Nida works closely with her family run used clothing grading manufacturing company, Resale International Pvt (Ltd.), to sort through and categorise over 30 million pounds of used clothes annually.
Within the factory they have a vintage subdivision by the name of Retro by Resale that Nida leads - its’ primary focus is to select and sort high quality, classic, old fashioned and “one-of-a-kind” antique clothing. The pieces that they sort are categorised in 4 different qualities – Cream, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3.
The Grade 1 and Grade 2 branded garments are collected and repurposed to create the Retro Upcycle collections.
(Upcycling pre-loved jackets & hoodies with hand embroidery)
Their mission is to empower women in rural areas by teaching them skills that can enable them to pursue a brighter future, increase their self esteem and empower women to lead change for themselves and their entire community. Each piece that is created by Retro Upcycle is signed by the artisan who made it, increasing transparency as well as creating a connection between the wearer and the artisan.
The core of Retro Upcycle is to encourage people to live a more sustainable lifestyle by re-using quality products instead of them ending up in landfills. By wearing a piece from the collection, not only do you represent a powerful movement but don a timeless yet contemporary piece that’s story continues with you.
“Each piece narrates its own history, our designs are created with the hope to add on to that story by incorporating ethnic embroideries to it, after which its’ story continues with its next host! This creates timeless durable pieces that can be passed on and shared to add to its story!” says Nida.
Retro upcycle’s first collection, Floral Collection, was crafted in Pakistan where there is a lot of unrecognised talent in the local craftsmanship and designs. Nida worked with women of rural areas to upcycle vintage clothing using surface embellishment techniques like handwork, appliqué, patch work, embroidery, cross stitch, ribbon work etc. Techniques like ribbon work and cross stitch require meticulous diligence as each thread is used to create one image – which could take up to 2 days to complete, sometimes.
They also work on the principle of zero waste by using left over textile surplus and fabrics from local clothes market to use as patches and other embellishments on their jackets, i.e. pieces of curtains, shawls, wall art, yarn etc.
The next collection, Safari Collection, is made in collaboration with local women in Kampala, Uganda. Their local sustainable craftsmanship including reused dyed fabrics, bead work made from reused curved wire and bottle caps and painted crafts are few items that have been used to reflect the African spirit in the ‘Safari’ collection. This collection hopes to expand the upcycle reach by showcasing global talent to collaborate on a universal mission. Each piece’s story is enhanced by both African and Pakistani traditional embroidery to showcase a story rich of both cultures that continues with its next host!
Find Retro Upcycle on Instagram here.
Find Retro Upcycle's website here.
Image Credits - Retro Upcycle.