Sustainable Fashion: Challenging the Design Process with Upcycling
with Victoire Witdouck
On April 2nd, 2021, for the second day of About *Design*, PCA held a Fashion *Design* talk with Victoire Witdouck, designer for the brand Marine Serre.
If you missed it, here is a summary.
Victoire Witdouck works for the Paris-based fashion brand Marine Serre as a designer. As she’s been there since the start, she knows the brand’s identity very well and has a deep understanding of the brand’s values and processes. She explains how upcycling is at the core of the company’s design and production processes by giving the example of one of the company’s signature design; the skirt made out of silk scarfs. In order to make one single skirt, 10 silk scarfs are necessary, and the colors and patterns need to work well together in order to obtain a beautiful end product.
She highlights the many challenges of upcycling, such as how difficult it is to standardize the process so it can be manufactured, as every piece of garment is unique. In order to ensure the smooth running of the factories and the quality of the end products, Victoire explains that the teams working in the factories follow a very specific training. The entire process, from building the stock after collecting garments from warehouses, to the quality check of the end products, is very long and require a great expertise, which justifies the pricing of the clothes and why no other brand is doing upcycling at their level.
Victoire wants to draw attention to the care that is put behind the selection of the initial garments, as the upcycled clothes need to be of a good quality to begin with and feature interesting patterns to make interesting end products. The goal is thus to find a balance between keeping as much of the original as possible – “working with what you have” – and making sacrifices to create clothing of a great quality.
Another challenge of upcycling is that due to the limited quantity of the same garment, the number of copies that can be made of the same article is limited too, and thus some projects have to be stopped. The brand also requires a certain flexibility from the customers, as the product they’ll receive at home after purchasing from the website will not look exactly like the picture, the principle of upcycling making each article of clothing unique.
As they are also concerned with animal cruelty and sustainability, they try not to use too much water in their production process, only produce in Europe, and only repurpose dead stock when they integrate leather in their clothing. The brand prioritizes small networks and human relations above all, and strives for the democratization of a production process that could change the face of the fashion industry.