New life luxury: upcycled Scottish heritage textiles

Sara Keith*, Maria Silies

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The term luxury and sustainability, within the fashion and textile industries are seldom seen as natural bedfellows. Recently however, the perception of luxury has begun to include a definition left behind in the twentieth century; beautifully hand crafted artefacts valued for the time, skill and design invested in them. It is possible though, for the concept of luxury textiles to embrace this definition and that of the sustainable credentials of a “Cradle to Cradle” (McDonough and Braungart, 2002) mindset (that of a life beyond original creation) and be fashionable. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach – Utilising a variety of methodologies including case studies, reflective practice and a practice-based approach; this paper examines the use of pre-consumer waste in the creation of new luxury textiles. Several projects are cited, offering examples of collaboration between textile mills and designers in the creation of new fabrics made from luxury by-products. This luxury waste is routinely shredded for automobile seat filling or landfill, however current sustainable thinking encourages a more creative solution to this circumstance. Designers have a crucial role to play in converting an unwanted by-product to one that is highly desirable.

Findings – Traditional values of what constitutes a luxury item include the concept of time invested in making a unique handmade artefact. More recently, this premise has been overlooked in favour of branded goods. The slow fashion movement advocates the inherent value of craftsmanship coupled with the ethical use of sustainable and or local materials and processes. The traditional techniques of felting, weave and stitch are utilised to create beautiful, original textiles from discarded waste. By collaborating with local mills, designers provide solutions to something that could be perceived as a problem.

Originality/value – The embedded narrative within these layered textiles provides an original quality and added value, building on their Scottish heritage. The resulting textiles reflect their provenance; the landscape they come from and the people who created them. As a result of purchase, the story continues with the new custodian, adding to the ongoing history of the textile. The design work and collaboration that this paper outlines embodies a transferable model for sustainable upcycled luxury textiles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1051-1064
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Retail and Distribution Management
Issue number10-11
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2015


  • Design
  • Luxury
  • Narrative
  • Pre-consumer waste
  • Sustainability
  • Upcycling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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