November 2014 saw the launch of the UK’s first retail website dedicated to the art of upcycling. We interviewed founder Donna Fenn, busy London teacher turned entrepreneurial Yorkshire lass, to find out more about the reasons behind Remade in Britain and what her hopes are for the creative future of upcycling:
How did the idea for Remade in Britain come about? What was the inspiration behind it?
Remade in Britain was borne from the realisation that when trying to find upcycled items it was a painstaking job trying to sort thought the pages of Etsy and Not on the High Street. Upcycled products were lost in the pages of general craft and home wares, with nothing unique for upcyclers and more importantly retailers based in Britain.
Creating an online marketplace dedicated to upcycling seemed the way forward. Remade in Britain creates a place where this vibrant group of people can come together under one ‘roof’ to sell their products amongst like-minded retailers, share their inspiration through our blog and showcase exciting developments in the upcycling world. Alongside this, the site celebrates all that is great about the talented designers, fantastic products and innovation which make up the British upcycling community.
Are you an avid upcycler yourself?
I have always been passionate about filling my home with gorgeous upcycled items which I put down to my dad’s influence. He could never walk past a skip without having a rummage before bringing whatever goodies he found home and turning them into something useful for the house or the shed on his allotment! The entire Remade in Britain team are all upcyclers and bloggers in their spare time which means as a group we fully understand the community, how it is developing and the creativity involved in turning previously unwanted items into beautiful designs.
Do you think that upcycling is just a passing fad or do you believe that it will become increasingly popular?
I definitely don’t think upcycling is a passing fad. I firmly believe it will continue to grow as society becomes more and more aware of how finite the world’s resources are. Upcycling appeals to our sense of creativity and individuality, as well as offering a huge sense of satisfaction in saving items from landfill, which in turn impacts positively on the environment.
We’ve noticed a real shift in consumers looking for items that are unique and reflect personality, with many moving away from the impersonal, mass-produced wares found on the high street.
Why are more and more people turning to upcycling?
Our grandparents and parents were big upcyclers, born largely out of economic necessity but also out of a respect for the value of their belongings. Somewhere along the way these values have been left behind and our goods have become too easily replaceable and disposable.
The high quality craftsmanship of the past is often replaced with cheaper, convenient alternatives possessing a shorter life expectancy, but I think a lot of people are starting to weary of living in a throwaway world.
Upcycling is experiencing a revival as people have combined the need for thrift with the desire to start looking after our planet. Taking items which were heading for landfill and turning them into something useful and beautiful has a huge and positive impact on our environment.
What benefits are there to upcycling rather than buying new?
All products are unique and individual. Many items sold on Remade in Britain are one-offs by the very nature of how they have been designed and evolved. It’s amazing how you could give the same discarded item to 10 or more upcyclers and I guarantee they would all create something different, which is very exciting for consumers.
As a result, the upcycling community is incredibly generous and supportive because there is little or no direct competition between their items – a refreshing model for the retail world!
Some people might think that upcycled products have a lower lifespan than new products would have. What do you say to that?
In a lot of aspects I would say the opposite of this statement is true. Most products purchased new unfortunately have a much shorter lifespan than 20-50 years ago, whereas upcycled items are designed and reworked to result in robust creations that will continue to be used for many years and if required can then be upcycled again and again.
Some of the talent out there is absolutely amazing! Can you tell us about some of your favourite projects that you’ve come across?
There are some seriously creative people on Remade in Britain and it’s very difficult to pick my favourites! If I had to choose I would say Sarah Turner Eco Art Designs who creates stunning light fittings, decorations and sculptures from plastic bottles.
Then there is Den of Uniquity which takes everyday mechanical and industrial salvaged items and re-purposes them into bespoke and functional home wares and accessories.
Finally I love Cup o’ Candle for their pretty and kitsch candles in discarded tea cups. They are so adorable and the perfect addition to any stylish home.
Finally, what is your vision for Remade in Britain? What would you like to see it achieve?
Launching Remade in Britain has been a long journey but we’re delighted to see it finally come to fruition. We have 300 upcyclers already registered and aim to build this to 1000 within the next year. Alongside this we will be developing the community side of Remade in Britain.
We want to become an upcycling hub, where people come to share knowledge, advertise fairs, events, exhibitions and workshops. We also plan to build our supplies and salvage side of the business so we can connect our upcyclers with anyone offering waste items and raw materials. The community side of our site is key for its success and so far the positive response and excitement from the upcycling world has been unbelievable. We can’t wait to see what the next few months will bring!