The Surge in Scrap Fabric Fashion by Alyssa Kumalmaz
Updated: Dec 26, 2020
Among the many fads that have characterized the 2020 fashion landscape, patchwork clothing emerges as one of the leading and arguably most interesting trends yet. These patchwork pieces, typically tops made with vivid and different colored fabrics of varied textures, have taken over Instagram and Depop since the spring.
These pieces share some other features as well: the most popular brands creating and selling patchwork products are all sustainable, independent, and based in the U.K., clueing us in on where the trend may have originated. Maddy Page Knitwear, which has amassed 35,000 followers combined on their Instagram and Depop accounts, produces punk-inspired sustainable fashion almost exclusively in shades of pink, red, black, and white. Rhi Dancey also has an impressive following, standing at nearly 25,000 Instagram and Depop followers altogether. My personal favorite, Rhi Dancey’s beautiful custom pieces are evocative of 2000s or “y2k” (a Depop buzzword) Jean Paul Gaultier.
Perhaps the biggest name in the scrap/patchwork game is Rua Carlota, a London-based brand boasting over 60,000 followers on Instagram, which was featured in Vogue magazine twice this year. Rua Carlota’s founder and sole designer, Charlotte Rose Kirkham, creates her popular pieces using only scrap fabrics or other “pre-loved” materials as part of the brand’s mission to “challenge waste culture”.
Given the time, care, and creativity these artists pour into each piece, the prices for these items do not — much to my dismay — fall on the more affordable scale of things, especially after factoring in shipping fees. Of the three aforementioned brands, Maddy Page Knitwear’s prices run the lowest, ranging from £25 - £35, giving fans of both punk and patchwork cause for celebration. Rhi Dancey’s usually stand at around £50, while Rua Carlota’s hand-made items typically cost twice as much.
Not only have fast fashion brands begun to capitalize on the trend, but the cheap labor that they employ means that their pieces are more forgiving on our wallets and bank accounts. However, fast fashion has become increasingly scrutinized over the past few years and was even the focus of a “Patriot Act” episode released on Netflix late last year. While aware of the horrific labor conditions and environmental damage these companies are associated with, some argue that there is no ethical consumption under capitalism and that purchasing from more expensive, sustainable brands won’t eliminate the problems created by the fast fashion industry.
These important arguments, which have been discussed with greater nuance and depth in various scholarly works, newsrooms, and forums alike go beyond the scope of this article. Rather, I’d like to stop at this point to demonstrate the irony of notoriously wasteful fast fashion companies stealing styles from artists who designed their products with eco-friendly, sustainable ideas in mind.
Understandably, dropping $50+ on a patchwork shirt (or any shirt, for that matter) isn’t always a feasible option. Often, people interested in popular sustainable clothing like these patchwork and scrap pieces turn to more affordable fast-fashion counterparts, making choices that prompt the questions of personal finances, ethics, and politics. But, to conclude on a much lighter note, here are some more pretty pictures of patchwork and scrap clothing to enjoy!