Molly Grace James

A Life Well Lived…



Upcycling for One of a Kind Pieces

Creating astonishingly beautiful pieces from materials many would simply discard is what makes upcycling unique. It takes an artistic eye and the skill to look at a piece of furniture, a plastic shopping bag or pieces of cotton fabric and see a re-imagined and better piece.

Upcycling bulbs

Upcycling has grown in popularity and is credited as being introduced to popular culture by Reiner Pilz of Pilz GmbH in 1994 during an interview he gave about the process of European waste systems.

 “What we need is upcycling- where old products are given more value, not less.”

What is Upcycling?

Upcycling refers to reusing an object in a new way without degrading the material it is made from, as opposed to recycling which generally involves breaking down the original material and making it into something else, using more energy.

reclaim upcycling de castro

Upcycled Clothing:

Designer Orsola de Castro is known as the “Queen of Upcycling,” for her fashion-forward eco apparel. She addressed the issue of growing landfills in China at an EcoChic Design Academy seminar in Hong Kong.

Today’s fashion industry is increasingly overproducing garments and textiles, said de Castro.

 “What is being thrown away into landfill is often beautiful and usable for designers who can approach such materials in a creative way.”


Upcycled Bags and Totes:

Another designer has ventured into eco-designs. Catalina Estrada has created bags and pouches from upcycled plastic. I spotted this vibrant pouch in the store window of a local shop and had to stop. It was made by Catalina Estrada. I loved the pattern, but was excited to see it was made of upcycled plastic.

catalina estrada

Upcycled Furniture and Build Out:

Can often be a DIY project, but Hammer and Hand, based in Portland specializes in  sustainable,local,superbly designed, expertly crafted furniture.

interior redo upcycling

What are your favorite upcycled products?

For more ideas check out: 151 Upcycling Ideas That Will Blow Your Mind.

Making the Change

Elizabeth Cline, the author of Over Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, says the problem has grown dramatically in the wake of global trade agreements, starting with NAFTA in 1994.

In the 1950s and ’60s, almost 100 percent  of clothing in the U.S. was produced domestically. By 1990, that changed to 50 percent. It is now a mere 2 percent.

So now, with ethically-made clothes making up a tiny fraction of 1 percent of the overall $3 trillion global fashion industry, something must change.  It really is a lifestyle choice. Particularly, if you have the ability to select the clothing, it will be more expensive, but the clothes will be better made (and just might make you feel good!)


What are your options?

Fortunately, Fair Trade certified clothing is typically only about 5% more expensive than similar items that don’t have the label. I want to feel good about the choices I make, whether it be the food I consume, the products I buy or the clothing I wear. Hopefully, more companies will continue their efforts and more consumers will choose positive clothing options.  I know I will still want stylish, trendy options (not always easy to find):

Sseko Designs uses fashion to provide employment and scholarship opportunities to women pursuing their dreams and overcoming poverty. Their shoes and handbags are stylish and fun, too.

sseko worthy apparel

JEWELRY: Look no further than Connect Goods for fabulous jewelry. They also have a wide variety of clothing and quilts.

jewlery fair trade

For men’s and women’s clothing take out Agnes and Lola is an online boutique that sells ethical contemporary fashion from designers across the African Diaspora. 

Unique garments for men and women People Tree has been making ethical clothing for more than 20 years.

little black dress ethical

Boho Hemp has great workout clothes for men and women.

ethical sports apparel

With a handful of ethical clothing sources, would you make the switch?

Giving Up Fast Fashion

While we know what comes to mind with generally unhealthy “fast food” dining options I was unaware of the harmful world of “fast fashion.”Image

Fast fashion is apparel that is produced quickly, imported from countries like Bangladesh, known for their low cost of production, and is not often made from high quality materials.

Unfortunately such clothing options can be as harmful as processed food.  The collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh, that produces clothing for international clothing lines, brought global awareness to the problems with cheap clothing. America’s Research Group found that even after this tragedy, shoppers were still more concerned with fit and price as opposed to worker safety and garment quality.


In the wake of the building collapse and with the loss of lives of thousands of workers, many apparel companies including H&M (with large production facilities in Bangladesh) have signed a plan for improved safety standards. Several other retailers are signing on too, including Inditex, owner of the Zara chain and PVH, the parent company of Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Izod. This is a start.

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