• BADLANDS

Unexpected Upcycling: Towels & Terrycloth

Updated: Dec 21, 2020


Waste not, want not. That's what slow fashion makers have to say, especially when it comes to sourcing textiles for their new creations. And while most small-scale sustainable designers opt for deadstock fabric, some prefer to get more creative in terms of what textiles they're saving from the landfill.


Perhaps vintage towels are not the first fabric that comes to mind when creating fashion. Sure, terrycloth had its moment in the sun back in the 70s, and even again in the 90s, but has it ever really been lauded as a truly trendy textile? Not so much, likely due to its thickness, as well as general difficulties in working with the fabric. It doesn't drape quite nicely, and is often pigeonholed as an athletic textile, yet two independent slow-fashion designers have found individual ways to create trendy pieces by upcycling vintage towels. Who would've guessed.

In the spirit of preventing waste, she now offers a "supply your own" option wherein shoppers can send their own discarded towels to create an original fashion accessory amidst her own eclectic design style.


Picnicwear, founded by experienced designer Dani des Roches out of her own COVID boredom and disappointment in the fashion industry, stumbled across reusing old towels by accident. According to her own account, after coming across some unsold old school towels in her own vintage shop, she whipped up a ruched bucket hat inspired by some 1960s images, sans pattern. The bucket hat launched her brand, becoming the soul of Picnicwear, and she continues to debut new one of a kind pieces cut from extremely colourful and funky textiles. In the spirit of preventing waste, she now offers a "supply your own" option wherein shoppers can send their own discarded towels to create an original fashion accessory amidst her own eclectic design style.


While des Roches found her perfect piece to reinterpret towels, Katrine Goli went in a different direction which also rejects the intrinsic relationship between terrycloth and athleisure. The Danish designer handmakes button up short sleeve shirts from vintage towels she sources in Copenhagen, turning them into unique statement pieces. Not only does Goli upcycle a surprising fabric, but she also pairs together different prints in her split-style shirt, ensuring that every piece is an original. This marriage of classic cuts, vintage, and unexpected textiles creates an eye-catching look that can (and should) be worn by absolutely anyone. Goli frequently worked with recycled textiles in the past, but began her journey with towels this summer, likely inspired by retro beach wear and a nostalgia for a simpler (and less pandemic-y) time.

And to that I say, open your mind! As we all know seasonality is the enemy of sustainability because it encourages us to consume more and maximize what we already have in our wardrobe less.


Speaking of summer, you may be thinking, why on earth would I wear something so beachy while knee-deep in autumn? And to that I say, open your mind! As we all know seasonality is the enemy of sustainability because it encourages us to consume more and maximize what we already have in our wardrobe less. Not only are Katrine Goli's towel tops an excellent layering piece, but both her shirts, as well as des Roches' bucket hats are made from obviously cozy, fuzzy material. This means that upcycled towels are certain to keep you warm throughout the winter months, while not sacrificing a fun and funky colour pallet! While this textile may be a bit unexpected in terms of making a fashion statement, take our word for it. A recycled towel piece promises to give you that warm feeling of being wrapped up on the beach after a refreshing swim all year round. While towels may be an example of unexpected upcycling, from NYC to Copenhagen, this seems to be an idea that is catching on around the globe.