the smart minimalist midnight black backpack made from apple leather.

What does upcycled mean?

You’ve seen it on HGTV. An old dresser is given a new life. It’s been refinished, cut so it can be turned into a beautiful new bathroom vanity. This dresser has officially been “upcycled.”  

Upcycling vs Vintage 

Vintage is buying something from another time and rewearing it as is. Upcycling is where pre and post consumer textiles, and precious metals are repurposed into something new. It’s a growing trend- even among high end designers. Prada’s much hyped about Re-Nylonℱ line of bags is made with recycled nylon. Louis Vuitton also adopted an Upcycling Signal Logo—which is a combination of the LV logo and the recycling symbol—for products that are either upcycled or contain at least 50% recycled and bio-sourced materials.

It’s also gaining popularity among celebrities and royalty. In fact, Kate Middleton might just be the queen of upcycling. She has been photographed rewearing the same outfits and accessories (sometimes for decades) to royal appearances. She’s even taken old jewelry handed down and had it refashioned into new pieces, more suited to her style.  

"Upcycling is where pre and post consumer textile and precious metals are repurposed into something new."

Our favorite upcycle by the duchess? Kate was gifted a pair of sapphire and diamond earrings by Prince William from Princess Diana’s personal collection following their engagement. Middleton then had the gift—that matched her engagement ring—customized into a pair of drop earrings. 

Why Does Upcycling Matter? 

The fashion industry is the second largest polluter globally. With the rise of fast fashion over the last 20 years, it has disastrous social and environmental consequences. Upcycling is the best way to minimize your impact on the environment.

Upcycling clothes is more efficient and less resource consuming than recycling. When re reuse the materials, it saves large amounts of resources such as water and energy. Upcycled accessories usually include items of higher quality and utility. It is more important than ever to reduce the impact of fashion in raw material sourcing, manufacturing, distribution, consumption, and decrease our waste.

How to shop upcycled:  

Since the pandemic, consumers have been increasingly prioritizing their sustainability efforts and the green movement is booming. 

So, What do the pieces look like in practice? And how can you shop upcycled? The Smart Minimalist offers a wide selection of upcycled pieces. Scroll below to see some of our upcycled best sellers. And click here to see the whole collection. 


Pictured: Crescent Moon Necklace
How is it upcycled? The base of the necklace is made from recycled stainless steel is plated in 18K gold. 

Pictured: Vegan Hip Bag
How is it upcycled? This bag is made of apple leather scraps. 

Pictured: Recycled Vegan Leather Large Shoulder Bag - Saddle
How is it upcycled? This bag and the zip pouch included are made from 40% post-consumer recycled polyester. (It's buttery soft!) 

Pictured: Chunky Classic Gold Hoop Earrings
How is it upcycled? The silver from old iPhone and computers is melted down into these stunning classic hoops. 

Pictured: Gucci & LV upcycled keychain
How is it upcycled? Old Gucci and LV canvas bags are cut into strips, lined with new leather, then attached is an antique bronze hardware. 


What do you think of the upcycle movement? Comment below! 

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.