Out of Old!
Donna Fenn, founder of Remade in Britain, explains why upcycling is the interiors trend to look out for next year, as people turn away from mass-produced items and instead move towards unique, repurposed products. With the growing popularity of shows like The Great British Sewing Bee, The Great British Bake Off and The Great Pottery Throw Down, more and more people are taking up crafts and learning to make their own products rather than simply buying them off the shelves.
John Lewis reported a 54 per cent increase in sales of simple patterns after the first episode of The Great Sewing Bee earlier this year, showing the growing trend of people wanting to learn their own skills. The UK craft market is now valued at around £3.5billion, with upcycling estimated to account for between five and 40 per cent of this.
The term upcycling, which is the art of repurposing unwanted items into something of higher quality and value, was coined in Germany in the early nineties and has become popular in countries including the US, Germany and Sweden. The popularity of repurposed and vintage items is most noticeable on online artist marketplaces like American-based Etsy and Artfire where products tagged with ‘upcycled’ rocketed from 7,900 in 2010 to 216,024 last year.
We set up Remade in Britain in 2014 after hearing that many upcyclers had no platform to sell their products on and were getting lost in the pages of eBay and Etsy. Remade in Britain is the first website in Britain that is completely dedicated to upcycling and we’ve seen interest boom over the year we’ve been online. We put this down to people turning against the mass production of furniture and interiors items and instead looking towards more personalised, individual items as they become bored with what the high street has to offer.
The beauty of buying or creating an upcycled product is that it is completely unique and no-one will have the same piece. Lots of our retailers make products to order and most things can be customised, ensuring no two items are the same!
Upcycling is experiencing a revival as people have combined the need for thrift with the desire to start looking after our planet. Taking items which were heading for landfill and turning them into something useful and beautiful has a huge and positive impact on our environment and gives people an opportunity to really express their creativity.
I’m constantly amazed at the products we see created by our retailers – who would have thought an old shopping trolley could be reused as a chair, or a motorbike part as a lamp!
Upcycling appeals to our sense of creativity and individuality, as well as offering a huge sense of satisfaction in saving items from landfill, which in turn impacts positively on the environment. It can also go some way towards tackling some of the estimated 280m tonnes of waste produced each year in the UK. Consumers have become used to throwing away unwanted items, but upcycling encourages people to think about changing this. We are also increasingly seeing people look towards developing skills that may previously have passed down from generation to generation and this is translating into what people are buying.
Our grandparents and parents were big upcyclers, born largely out of economic necessity but also out of a respect for the value of their belongings. Somewhere along the way these values have been left behind and our goods have become too easily replaceable and disposable.
Many handcrafted products were made with great craftsmanship and upcycling is a great way of preserving this and giving an item a new lease of life.
Since launching Remade in Britain, we’ve continued to grow and grow, with more than 300 independent businesses and retailers now selling more than 3,000 products on our site, made from everything from unwanted bathtubs to discarded wooden pallets and plastic bottles.
We’ve also exhibited at the Grand Designs Live show, sharing some of our fabulous retailers’ upcycling skills with visitors, as well as hosting workshops at vintage and interiors fairs across the country.
More recently, we’ve acquired Nigel’s Eco Store, the UK’s leading online eco retailer, as we look to further our commitment to encouraging people to buy environmentally friendly products rather than mass produced items.
It’s a great time to be involved with not only upcycling but the crafting world in general – and we can’t wait to see what 2016 brings!