I’ve been buying upcycled clothing since before the term was invented. I used to buy reworked vintage shirts and jackets at Barbdorf Gordman’s in the market in the 1980s, before many of the current upcycling designers were even born. Now that dates me.

Upcycling is a core part of the current crafting renaissance, often referred to as the design it yourself or diy movement. Borrowing from my other blog (www.slowknitter.ca), to upcycle refers to taking objects that are no longer used and reworking them into something new. Upcycling is different from “recycling” because recycling involves breaking something down into its basic materials (grinding up bottles for example) before making something new. In upcycling, while original objects may be somewhat processed, they are still recognisable in the new object. Because processing is minimized in upcycling relative to recycling less energy and materials are wasted.

I know of four stores that sell upcycled women’s clothing in Ottawa (if you know of others, please comment). The Workshop Studio and Boutique, Victoire Boutique, and Aurajan, are all in the Dalhousie Street area. Aunt Olive’s, the fourth, is just off of Elgin Street.

The Workshop Boutique was started up by two Ottawa women designers and carries a wide range of mostly local designers, many of whom create clothing, jewelry and accessories out of previously used clothes and found objects. Some of the upcycling/recycling artists you can find at the Workshop Boutique include:

  • precocious – dresses, sweaters, skirts, tees
  • embody clothing – sweaters
  • loot by stina b – dresses, sweater hats, tees -new and recycled
  • mod to modern – sweaters
  • ghetto couture – tees, dresses
  • lion and tie girls – button bracelets, tea towel, tie and tablecloth skirts, silk scarf tops
  • good morning morning – handbags
  • infineight – skirts, bags, jewellery

Aurajan was also started by a local designer and carries her line of recycled sari clothing (see photo above) as well as upcycled clothing by Montreal designer mycoanna.

Victoire Boutique sells mostly new clothing but they do carry the preloved label of upcycled clothing from Toronto.

Aunt Olive’s is a cafe and vintage clothing store, with many vintage items given a bit of an upgrade by the store’s proprietor.

Etsy.com is a great place to find upcycled clothing designers on-line. Babeinthewoods is an Ottawa designer who sells on Etsy.

Twice a year (Spring and pre-Christmas) Ladyfest organizes a “Not Your Grandmother’s Craftshow” craftsh0w in Ottawa. Many of the crafters who vend at these shows are upcycling artists. Check Ladyfest’s website for dates and locations.

There are many benefits of buying upcycled clothing: fewer old clothes go to the landfill, small local designers are supported, and customers get one of kind clothing items.

The Workshop Studio and Boutique, 242 1/2 Dalhousie, Ottawa, ON, (613) 789.5534

Victoire Boutique, 238 Dalhousie St., Ottawa, ON, (613) 321-1590

Aurajan Boutique, 59 York Street, Ottawa, ON K1N 5T4, (613) 241-8354

Aunt Olives, 209 Gilmour (at Elgin, (613) 565-0564