Army of upcyclers transforms a tonne of donated clothing into fresh new looks at Brighton Fashion Week

19th October 2015

Thousands of visitors descended on Brighton Open Market last week to learn how to revamp, repair and upcycle old clothes into fresh new looks. The event, held during Brighton Fashion Week, was run by Love Your Clothes and Cancer Research UK  to showcase the benefits of second hand clothing while highlighting the environmental issues of clothing waste.

The visitors were invited to rummage through a tonne of donated clothing and take on the challenge of turning an unwanted item into a fashionable new outfit. 

To help give beginners the practical skills and confidence to tackle simple projects there were a series of free workshops and demonstrations with experts on hand to give advice on using a sewing machine, hand sewing and upcycling.

Participants went away not only with a unique addition to their wardrobe but also a range of sustainable tips to apply to all their clothes no matter how quickly trends change.

Sarah Clayton, Head of Products and Services at WRAP, the organisation behind the Love Your Clothes campaign, said:
“We were delighted to see so many people getting stuck in to our tonne of clothes, learning how to give their own clothes a new lease of life and the value of choosing to buy pre-owned clothes. Keeping clothes in use for longer is the single biggest thing we can do to reduce the environmental impact of clothing. There is no reason for any item of clothing to end up in landfill – it can all be re-used, donated or recycled.”

Students from Northbrook College put their ‘fashion salvage’ skills to test at the event and impressed the Mayor of Brighton and Hove Councillor Lynda Hyde, with their creations. And pupils from Varndean Secondary School and St Paul’s Primary School also took part in activities learning about the journey their school uniform makes.

In addition, hundreds of people took part in a free swishing event with Rags Revival. Swishers brought along a pre-loved item of clothing to swap for something new to them giving their wardrobe a new lease of life. One happy swisher, Ana Ortega, said: “It’s just amazing what you can find second-hand and what some people will get rid of. This was my first swishing event and I’ve had a great time – it’s a brilliant way of freshening up your wardrobe without spending a fortune.”

UK consumers buy around one million tonnes of clothing every year and get rid of roughly the same amount. Fifty per cent of these clothes are re-used, but around 350,000 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill despite all textiles and clothing being suitable for recycling and charity donation. 

The public were also encouraged to donate clothing to Cancer Research UK throughout the event and brought bag loads to the charity’s Donation Station tent.

Elaine Hutchins, Cancer Research UK Area Manager for South East, said: “Love Your Clothes was a fascinating and inspiring event to be involved with. We are able to sell most of the clothes our supporters generously donate to us. But for those that aren’t quite good quality enough for us to sell, this was a perfect outlet – upcycled into something new, wearable and in some cases, adorable. Every bag of clothes donated to us is worth up to £30 and will help us beat cancer sooner.”

Upcycled garments created at the event are on display at the Cancer Research UK shop in Brighton on the Western Road.

Visit the Love Your Clothes website at for tips and ideas on fixing, upcycling and caring for your clothes.


Notes to editors:

Images from the event available on request.

Love Your Clothes is a consumer campaign to help reduce the impact of clothing across the UK.  It does this by helping consumers’ change the way they buy, use and dispose of clothes, encouraging them to: 

  • Buy smart - choosing clothes that last longer, are pre-owned, integrate easy care technologies; 
  • Extend the useful life of existing clothes - repairing items, accessorising, laundry care; and 
  • To ensure unwanted clothes are re-used or clothes unsuitable for re-use are recycled.
  • Visit the website for tips and ideas on fixing, upcycling and caring for your clothes at /
    @loveyourclothes #fashionsalvage

The clothing industry represents the fifth-biggest environmental footprint of any UK industry. Extending the average life of clothes by just three months would lead to a 5-10% reduction in the carbon, water and waste used in the clothing manufacturing process.

Love Your Clothes was developed by WRAP to support the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP). Leading clothing retailers, charities (including Cancer Research UK) and textile collectors/recyclers have signed up to the SCAP 2020Commitment and pledged to reduce the environmental footprint of clothing across its lifecycle. Valuing our Clothes is WRAP’s ground breaking report into the financial and environmental impacts of clothing.

WRAP’s vision is a world where resources are used sustainably. It works in partnership with governments, businesses, trade bodies, local authorities, communities and individuals looking for practical advice to improve resource efficiency that delivers both economic and environmental benefits. @WRAP_UK

Cancer Research UK:

  • is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research. The charity’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
  • receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.
  • has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival rates in the UK double in the last forty years. 
    supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1861 or visit Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Brighton Fashion Week took place on 15 – 17 October with partners Love Your Clothes, World Fair Trade Organisation, The Ethical Fashion Forum and Cancer Research UK to host a week of sustainable and ethically focused catwalk shows, movie screenings, panel discussions and fringe events; including a talk with Fashion Revolutions Orsola De Castro.


Naomi Evetts

Team Co-ordinator
01295 819627