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Introduction to Revival Culture: local upcycling solutions for global problems

Changing what people think is important and worthwhile can make a positive impact for creating more liveable futures.
Caption: Yayra and Kwamena exploring creative options for upcycling a shirt

From trash to treasure

Have you ever heard the phrase “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure”? This phrase reminds us that everyone has different approaches to what they think is special, and that objects on their own don’t necessarily carry value. Instead, it is the cultures and social norms around objects that can turn an ordinary bit of trash into something extraordinary.

Remember when we heard Yayra’s story? Do you remember how we heard about the Versace garment on the floor? Imagine how much that cost someone when it first found its way onto the shelves – they obviously did not think that garment was trash. So how did it lose its value? Maybe it got torn, or maybe it went out of fashion. Changing what people think is important and worthwhile can make a positive impact for creating more liveable futures. So if Versace can become trash, can it become valuable once again?

Heart Couture: creating new values

Other research shows that feeling attached to our clothing, and other goods, makes us more likely to repair them. However, things that prevent us from repairing what we have depends on what skills we have, whether we have access to learning resources and materials, and if we have the time spare. But there’s another problem, and this is the social stigma surrounding repair: that it’s cooler to buy new stuff than to use what we have already and, in doing so, slow the lifespan of products.

But there is evidence that it is becoming cool to thrift, repair and upcycle, which points to the idea that as a society, our social norms are changing. What is more, with the internet providing fast and free access to resources on upcycling, the barriers to creating something beautiful from trash are become fewer.

The term “haute couture” in French describes exclusive, custom-fit, high-end fashion design that is constructed by hand from start-to-finish. It’s a protected badge which only firms who meet certain high standards can obtain. But in Accra, and around the world, upcyclers are creating their own what we could call “heart couture”. This is the type of couture where a garment’s mark of value is not in the price tag of the raw materials used or the designer brand behind it, but rather the community-backed creativity which has gone into turning a piece of trash into a piece of wearable art. Instead of perfection and engaging in high-stakes design, in this process, making mistakes and playing around is important for discovering unique ways of re-designing clothes and expressing our individuality.

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Upcycling and the Circular Economy: Ghanaian Creative Solutions to Global Textile Waste

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