… I come from the time when punk arrived in Estonia and the Soviet influence was pulling back. I spent a lot of time with my grandfather, who was a sculptor and kept everything that was in his studio. Even the smallest piece of fabric would be used in his artwork. At that time, I started to make clothes for myself, always using my grandaunt’s old dresses or textiles from my mother’s closet (she is a textile designer). Studying fashion design was a natural choice, and I started working as a fashion designer in 1997.
Since 2002, all of my collections have followed the principles of upcycling — a process that brings leftover materials back into the production cycle with the help of design. I was (and still am!) so excited about the possibilities of upcycling that I enrolled in a doctoral program and began working on my dissertation: Trash to Trend: Using Upcycling in Fashion Design. My research opened up the possibilities of implementing upcycling within the fashion industry and mass production. This led to creating a community platform for upcycling designers called Trash to Trend.
Since completing my doctoral studies, I have been applying my research to the real world. In 2012, I began cooperating with Beximco, one of the biggest apparel manufacturers in Bangladesh. In my collections, I implement upcycling in the early stages of the mass production process. This has improved efficiency and reduced environmental impact — each item we produce this way uses on average 70% less water and 88% less energy compared to regularly mass-produced items. The production line using the upcycling method was named Upmade® and certified in December 2014. Beximco is a member of the ILO (International Labour Organisation), meaning they are regularly audited for their employees’ working conditions, salary levels and social guarantees.

Reet Aus     

  • The Order of the White Star, class V (2016)
  • One of the Top 20 Women in Business by the Nordic Business Report (2015)
  • Runner-up at I:COLLECT Award (2015)
  • Runner-up at European Business Awards for the Environment (2014)
  • Woman of the Year (Association of Business and Professional Women Estonia 2014)
  • Notable Young Estonian (Junior Chamber International Estonia 2014)
  • Environmentally Friendly Company (Ministry of the Environment 2013)
  • Entrepreneur of the Year of the Civic Society (Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations 2013)

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