Can the wasteful aftermath of cultures’ moments of utopia find new meaning? Amidst the pulsating rhythms and festival revelry, London based designer and free spirit Chloe Baines presents a transformative idea: what if these forsaken structures, initially crafted for fleeting euphoria, could be resurrected into a vibrant tapestry of sustainable fashion?




Featured Designer_ Chloe Baines

Where are you based_ North London

Age_ 25

Where did you study_ London College of Fashion, UAL

What year did you graduate_ 2019

When did you first start employing the process of upcycling in your work_

I first started up-cycling during my Art and Design foundation course at Coventry University. At the time, this was mainly due to my financial situation and I had to be resourceful. I found that I actually find it really inspiring to use something that already exists and turn it into something else. I remember some of the first pieces that I made that were made out of found materials were made out of anything from old and ripped tights to discarded paper-card, which I rolled into tubes and made a dress. 

What inspired you to start upcycling discarded materials_

I learned more about the issues surrounding sustainability in fashion whilst studying at London College of Fashion. I found that while I was learning to make clothes, I began to question why they’re so disposable. During my second year at university, I had a seminar with Christopher Raeburn and I remember thinking that his work is genius. After this, I knew that I wanted to explore upcycling further in my work. During the summer before my final year at LCF, I went to a festival with my friends and I was horrified by the amount of waste tents that were left in the fields. I figured that if the tents had been stitched together, then surely they could be used to make clothes too. I work with a very hands on approach when it comes to design work, so I feel most inspired when I’ve got something physical to play around with. I usually let the materials inform my designs when experimenting with discarded fabrics. 

What materials do you use in your work_

I use a variety of materials but I mostly use materials that come from discarded tents. More recently, I’ve been combining tent materials with scraps of denim. I’ve also been using embellishment and customisation techniques to upcycle unwanted garments. 

Where do you find your materials_ 

The materials I use come from a range of sources. In my most recent collection, PEGGED, I have used a variety of materials including denim scraps that have been donated to us by local upcycling denim brand, E.L.V Denim. Due to the pandemic, festivals were canceled in 2020 which meant that many of the tents that I have collected since 2019 have been second hand and donated to us by friends, family or people who reached out online. This year, I have also launched a capsule collection with upcycling platform, RETURE which includes a series of customized blazers to be sold in the Corner Shop at Selfridges, as part of their Resellfridges project. These blazers were all inherited or found in charity shops around North London.

How does the process of upcycling inform your work_

I always feel most inspired when using fabrics that have already been used for a different purpose. I usually find that sourcing brand new fabrics hinders my design process and it can be quite overwhelming. There’s so much choice and it’s hard to know exactly where it’s come from. It’s really exciting to open an old/unwanted tent and see what colors, fabrics and hardware have been used to make it. Whilst this is far from the most glamorous side to my job, it’s definitely the most fun and creative. All of the tents are completely different from one another which is a huge asset to my design process. Though this does provide difficulties in production, I think that it’s also the beauty of it, no two pieces are exactly the same.

What role does the process of upcycling play in the fashion industry today? What about in the future? How do you see the craft evolving_

I think that upcycling is a huge part of our future in fashion. I’m so excited and grateful to see that shopping more sustainably is becoming more desirable and accessible. It makes sense to me that upcycling and craft go hand in hand because using different craft techniques allow for existing garments and/or materials to be reused in creative and innovative ways. It’s been really interesting to see how craft techniques became more popular during lockdown. I think that if people knew more about what goes into making clothes, they would have a deeper understanding of their value. For me, this is crucial for change. 

What is the role of the designer in these times_

I think it’s up to designers to keep inventing innovative ways to make positive change. This has always been the role of any designer, to problem solve. I think fashion really has the ability to make an impact and I think it’s so exciting to see young designers putting social and environmental crises at the forefront of their intentions.

If you could change one thing about the fashion industry, what would it be_

Ooosh that’s a great question! I think for me it would be the notion that you have to sell your soul to get anywhere in the fashion industry. This isn’t the case! I’ve spent a lot of time working on my time management over the last few years because I came to the realization that I wasn’t making anywhere near enough for myself and was therefore negatively impacting my drive, passion and creativity. I thought that by over-working I was doing the right thing but I’ve realized that it was actually counterproductive. You can only be creatively charged and passionate about your work if you’re in a healthy headspace. During university and when I first graduated I constantly felt like I needed to prove my worth, which I think is a pretty common feeling that everyone encounters, especially being from a working class background. But now I feel more confident in myself and have realized that I deserve downtime. I am a hard worker and probably do more hours of work in a week than I ‘should’ but I love what I do so I’m happy to do overtime, passion projects and stuff like that. I’ve had to find a healthy balance that works for me and prioritize. No one should have to burn out to do well.

What advice would you give other young designers_

Don’t compare yourself to what others are doing. I spent a lot of time doing this at the start of my career and it just stunted my confidence. I constantly felt like I wasn’t doing enough and I was unable to move forward. Just focus on your own work and go at your own pace. 

What’s up next for you_

I plan to continue to explore different upcycling techniques

— Chloe Baines is a British designer who lives and works in London. / @chloebaines

“I went to a festival with friends and was horrified by the amount of waste tents left in the fields. If the tents had been stitched together in the first place, surely they could be used to make clothes too.” —Chloe Baines




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