Reimagine, recyle, restyle: DHL's call to turn old clothes into new fashion attracts creative minds from across the globe

Key Takeaways

  • Popular ‘Upcycle your Style’ campaign attracted over 1,000 participants
  • Kristine Kay from the Philippines was selected as the overall competition winner for her all-denim look made out of six discarded jeans
  • In collaboration with German sustainable fashion brand Grubenhelden, DHL produced a set of one-of-a-kind bags made from DHL uniforms for the ‘Upycle your Style’ winner

As a global logistics company, DHL is invested in driving positive change for a sustainable future, aiming to reduce all logistics-related emissions to zero by 2050. In support of the sustainable fashion movement, DHL Fashion previously launched ‘Upcycle your Style’, a special campaign, which called on its participants to create new looks and styles by upcycling existing clothes and textiles in their wardrobes.

As a reward DHL, in collaboration with German sustainable fashion brand Grubenhelden, produced a set of one-of-a-kind bags made from DHL uniforms for the ‘Upycle your Style’ winner. The competition ran for just under four months and attracted over 1,000 participants from across the globe. But why, upcycling? 

DHL chose to spread the message about upcycling - taking something you already own and making it something new - to highlight some of the issues surrounding textile waste.

Data indicates that the average person purchases 60 percent more items of clothing now than they did at the turn of the century, but only keeps them for half the amount of time. With the equivalent of one garbage truck of unwanted textiles being thrown away or burnt every second, textile waste is said to contribute more to climate change and greenhouse emissions than air and sea travel combined. As fashion production is most likely to account for more than a quarter of the world's carbon emission budget by 2050 according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, DHL Fashion sought out a fun and creative way to help tackle this critical issue.

DHL has been a committed partner to the fashion industry for decades, offering tailored-made solutions to fulfill the needs of retailers and designers alike. Through its numerous partnerships, initiatives and competitions, DHL aims to underline the importance of promoting sustainability within the fashion industry. Next to selecting monthly winners for the 'Upcycle your Style' competition, DHL also selected one winner from the competition to win an exclusive prize – a set of upcycled bags made out of the DHL uniform!

A special collaboration with the German ‘Upcycling’ brand Grubenhelden

Kristine Kay, from the Philippines, and her all-denim look made from six different upcycled jeans that were distressed, draped, and assembled to make new pieces, is set to receive this one-of-a-kind set of bags, which were made by German sustainable fashion brand Grubenhelden. Founded by Matthias Bohm in 2016, the name translates to 'Pit Heroes.' Bohm was inspired to create the brand after searching for a vehicle through which he could showcase his respects to his great-grandfather and other miners who helped strengthen the economy in the Ruhr region while honoring the traditional mining values.

"People of all ages like fashion, making it the perfect vehicle for us to carry the story of the German coal-mining industry out into the world," said Bohm. "Each of our creations contains bits of the blue/white fabric, from which miners' shirts were originally made. This is our USP, our trademark." The sustainably focused brand is known for incorporating upcycling and other sustainable design techniques into its collections, which are inspired by historical archives and local’s life stories.

"Upcycling makes things authentic because we can make our story true by incorporating original garments."

Matthias Bohm

Grubenhelden has been working with DHL since it was first founded in 2016, using the logistic provider to ship its packages and goods. Both companies share a common goal of promoting sustainable change. "Sustainability definitely has its place at Grubenhelden. We try to avoid plastics where we can and aim to produce as little waste as possible," added Bohm. The brand uses recycled plastics as packaging for its clothes, is investing in recycled fabrics as well as local manufacturing to help keep its carbon emissions concerning production as low as possible.

In order to make the two special upcycled bags, a backpack and a weekender, Grubenhelden used two discarded DHL jackets. In total, five people from the brand's team worked on the designs. After creating the initial sketches for the bags, they move onto the design process, unpicking the stitches on the jackets by hand before cutting them up and reworking everything from the fabric to the zippers and hoods. The bags inner pockets are made out of zippers while the outer pockets from the hoods, but many design details were left intact, as a small homage to DHL.

"The whole initiative was quite a lengthy process, but I'm fortunate, in that my team are pros through and through, who have really mastered their craft," said Bohm. "The entire project took a little more time because the pieces are handmade and unique, but we put a lot of love and a great deal of attention into them." Both Grubenhelden and DHL are extremely pleased with the end products and open to working together in the future once more.


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