Upcycling with Bethany Alice

Upcycling with Bethany Alice

Meet Bethany Alice; Designer, Seamstress, Alterations master and an Upcyling queen

Firstly, we’d love to know a bit about you, who you are? Where are you based? And what do you do?

I’m Bethany (but you can call me Beth), I am currently living in Melton which is 30 mins from Melbourne, Victoria. I work from a little spare room in our house which I made into my studio. I help women alter their clothes so they can feel confident in them instead of feeling guilty for having a wardrobe full of wasted money. I also have my own small collection of upcycled pieces solely made from old clothes and fabric scraps. I have always loved fashion and have been sewing since I was about 10 when my mum taught me.

How did you end up doing what you do and why did you choose to focus on upcycling garments rather than just making new ones?

After studying fashion design at Uni, I had no idea what area of the fashion industry I wanted to go into as I loved the entire process from design to production. I had made a few pieces for family and friends so mum suggested I start my own little businesses.

In the beginning I was actually making custom made pieces from scratch but a couple years in I watched the ABC show war on waste and that’s what made me want to be more sustainable so I decided to focus more on alterations. Then I saw a video from Zero Waste Daniel who makes fabric by stitching fabric scraps from clothing warehouses back together. I thought this was such an amazing idea and I had plenty of my own fabric scraps so I tried it and loved it.

I then started playing around with transforming old clothes into new pieces. This was such an amazing creative challenge as you are limited in what you can use and have to come up with new ways to create your designs.

What made you so passionate about helping women alter their clothes to feel more confident?

I had a part time job out of uni while I was starting my business working at a bridesmaid’s showroom. I worked there for 5 years and I can safely say that in every group, every day I worked there was at least 1 woman who hated what they saw in the mirror.

The common conversation when trying dresses was “its ok it will be better when I lose weight.” This just broke my heart because this mentality plagued women of all shapes and sizes – it did no discriminate. It was such a shame to hear because nearly every time any issue they had with a dress could EASILY be fixed with a simple alteration.

I am so passionate about showing women that it is SO common to not fit a standard off the rack size, and a few simple alterations can make the garment suit them perfectly. Why waste so much energy trying to change yourself when you can put that pressure on the clothes to FIT YOU!! 

I will never get sick of the magic that happens when a women looks in the mirror at a newly altered piece and for a second gives herself permission to love herself as she is, because she now feels confident in the clothes that were remade to fit her body and she didn’t have to change a dam thing about herself!

What has been your most exciting upcycling project to date and why?

To be bias I would have to say this project with Lois Hazel. I felt so honoured that she would trust her amazing pieces to be upcycled by me. Not only that but it was so refreshing to see her willingness to not want to give up on old stock. So often brands will heavily reduce their prices or simply discard old stock that isn’t selling. 

It would be amazing to see more brands be open to transforming or somehow re-using old stock because, as I always say, there is so much potential sitting in what is already made. 

I also believe it shows customers what is possible when it comes to upcycling their own clothes. Most people believe that you can only shorten a hem or make a garment smaller, but I hope in doing projects like this it can show them that’s just the beginning of what is possible.

What are some questions you think people should ask before throwing or giving away their clothes? 

The number one question you should ask is “Why aren’t I wearing this?” It’s good to get really specific with this because this is where you can find solutions to fix it.

So for example I often work with clothes that are too small. So as a solution I will add in extra fabric but in ways that will make it a unique design feature or contrasting element to make it look like it was a part of the garment to begin with.

It is also quite easy to remove design elements that are uncomfortable or restrict movement.

I also often add elements to make a garment more comfortable, for example adding sleeves if you want your arms covered or adding extra fabric to a back so you can wear a bra etc.

But if you have truly fallen out of love with it, then it can be ok to pass on. 

(If you like I have a free guide “50 ways to fix 5 common reasons you aren’t wearing your clothes´ you can access is HERE

Where do you see the fashion industry going in the future? What are some things you hope will become normalised?

I really hope it becomes more of a circular economy. More people buying second hand, swapping clothes with friends, upcycling them to ensure clothing has the longest life possible to avoid going straight to landfill.

I also hope we can normalise buying less. Consumers have no idea how much power their spending habits have. I hope that if we start buying less then big fast fashion brands will stop producing so many units which often times end up in landfill or destroyed.

A great way to start doing that as a consumer is to consider when buying something new the 30 rule. Just think “will I wear this at least 30 times?” If yes then go for it and no then perhaps you don’t need to buy it. 

Finally I hope by purchasing less we will have a bit more cash under our belts to support small local businesses. There are so many amazing ones out there who are already doing their best to ensure their business practices are as sustainable and ethical as possible. I would love to see more money spent with brands focusing on sustainable and ethical practices rather than on big fast fashion brands who are contributing to harmful environmental practices.

Tell us more about your process when working with a customer to upcycle a piece? What are the steps you take?

So we catch up for a fitting and they will talk me through the pieces they aren’t wearing and figure out why. I also love seeing their favourite pieces to get an idea of what the feel comfortable in and what design elements they love.

Then I start throwing around ideas. It’s such a collaborative effort as I want to make sure the solutions are perfect to them. Then once I’ve done some pinning and taken some measurements I take the pieces and work my magic. 

Sometimes if the solutions we came up with are completely transformative I will also send them some sketches to they can get a better idea of what the final piece will look like. Then we have a final fitting to see if any further alterations are needed. This is my favourite part of the process, when the client sees the final product, because they get so excited and think “omg I need to see what else I have in my wardrobe that can be upcycled.”

You mainly work one on one with clients; how can people get in touch with you to upcycle some of their own clothes? 

The best way is through my website, HERE.  I have a range of packages available so you can find the best one that suits you and it also helps me get to know you a bit better to.

As most of the states and territories have been in and out of lockdowns and your home state is currently in lockdown what are five things that have been keeping you sane through all this?

 My boyfriend and I got a Corgi puppy Arnold in December 2020 and it has been the best having this cute little ball of energy to keep us company and give us lots of cuddles.

Honey soy chicken chips, crispy mnm’s and tim tams have been my go to snacks.

Door dash!! Honestly has been a life saver when I don’t want to cook (and that’s a lot!)

Having Arnold has been a great reason to get out of the house for our daily walks, you never want to do it but you always feel better afterwards

Any kind of reality trash tv. It’s like comfort food for the mind.


Shop our Collaboration with Beth:

Upcycled Wrap Top

Upcycled Wrap Dress 

To find out more about Bethany Alice visit her website.

Or follow along on Instagram @bethanyalice_fashiondesign

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