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Levi's runs free denim upcycling workshops

Words by Smiley Team

Did you know your old pair of jeans can be used to create wax crayons and baskets? Well, it’s true. These are the useful eco skills taught by Levi’s upcoming workshops alongside the brand’s exhibition of upcycled objects from 20 April to 5 May.

The British Council’s Architecture Design and Fashion (ADF) programme and Levi's selected Netherlands-based design-lab, Envisions and British educational association, Store to co-develop a physical output for display in Levi’s Haus, the brand’s concept store dedicated to circularity, design and heritage.

Led by educational organisation Store, three free workshops and a series of sessions in schools will teach ways to weave scraps of denim into baskets and extract ink from jeans to make crayons. After school clubs will see pupils learning how to take indigo ink from denim fibre pulp and use it to produce crayons. Meanwhile, the workshops will train participants to reinforce denim to make upcycled baskets.

The educational events series, with the British Council's Making Matters programme, is aimed at encouraging the public to transform waste materials into new, usable objects and extend their lifespans, rather than throwing items away.

"The material's former life gives you a lot of clues about what you can make," Store told Dezeen. 

"Every stage of production, from harvesting the cotton plant and weaving the threads to dying the fabric helps to generate ideas. Cotton fibres, cotton threads and cotton fabric are all distinct with special material qualities."

[Get inspired by more stories about individuals and groups promoting responsible consumption and production]

To book tickets for the public workshops, upcycling enthusiasts must sign up for a free Levi’s 247 membership.

Sevra Davis, Director of Architecture Design and Fashion at the British Council, said: "The British Council is the UK’s cultural relations organisation and the work of the Architecture Design and Fashion programme seeks to address today’s global challenges by connecting designers and design communities exploring the social and cultural value of a wide range of design disciplines.

"The Levi’s digital residency capitalises on the power of bilateral collaboration, offering the opportunity to share and exchange knowledge and design practices across borders, reaching a wider audience and challenging perceptions."

Made from cotton and synthetic dyes, denim usually takes a heavy toll on the environment. The production of just one pair of jeans, using contemporary techniques, requires 1500 gallons of water. To add to this, metal accessories often make denim wear difficult to recycle. 

The European denim market alone sees about 500 million sales in pairs of jeans every year. On average, each European owns seven pairs of jeans, two of which are never worn. 

But the worst is that most owners discard their unused jeans rather than sending them to charity shops. This means they end up in landfill sites or are incinerated. The material from less than one per cent of this waste is transformed into new clothing.

Inspired to act?

DONATE: To make arts and crafts skills publicly available, donate to Store.


This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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