The duo behind the upcycled brand shares how they’re challenging industry standards.
By Madeline Brik.
For British-French brand Wright Le Chapelain, “upcycled” is more than a buzzword, but a business practice. As the fashion industry puts more and more emphasis on ethical practices, WLC has found a way to create classic wardrobe pieces through charitable and sustainable efforts.
Founded by London-born Imogen Wright and Vincent Le Chapelain of Le Havre, France, WLC is a contemporary brand inspired by the duo’s everyday surroundings in the Southern English town of Totnes. “As a reflection of our studio’s rural relocation, our most recent collection is inspired by the local high street of Totnes, and the material landscape of its charity shops, which has rails hanging with discarded short sleeve checked walking shirts, jersey polo shirts and stonewashed denim,” they state over email to Mission.
The timeless collections are rooted in the founders’ focus on locality. Wright and Le Chapelain source their materials from British heritage mills and organic cotton farms in Italy. The brand has also recently partnered with CRISIS, the U.K. charity which aims to help people out of homelessness, by upcycling old garments into modern pieces. “We can only work with what we receive and have to react creatively and intuitively with the restrictions of the found materials,” states the duo.
The brand’s promise to remain local has benefited the community, as a percentage of each sale is donated back to the CRISIS charity. The partnership allows WLC to become involved with more than just the part of the community that can afford their garments. “We decided to source our garments to upcycle from charities because it was another way we could contribute and become involved in our community. Not because it was the easiest or most financially lucrative choice,” explains WLC.
Even as glitz and glam defines much of the fashion industry, WLC completely forgoes the materiality of design in favor of bridging the community together through sustainable efforts. For them, profits are about more than just financial benefits. “The relationship between income and design decisions is a very important point,” says the duo. “This is where a lot of the environmental and social damage is done. In today’s world most fashion companies, when faced with a choice between making the right choice by being environmentally and socially responsible or the chance to grow economically, choose the second.”
Fashion companies have frequently been criticized for their unethical practices, such as exploiting child labor and damaging the environment. Through community efforts, WLC is actively straying from that norm. The brand is also continuing to research new ways to involve the community even further. “Recently we have been experimenting with natural dyes from plant waste, and thinking of how we can connect our garden to our studio and integrate it with our creative practice,” they share.
Through ongoing efforts to integrate social and environmental efforts into fashion, WLC is forging a new path for high-end fashion. “Having a clothing brand is constantly challenging but a challenge that can only be met with progress and development. Learning, growing, experimenting, making mistakes and always aiming to do better.”