A Black woman with tight, auburn braids and an orange-patterned head scarf sits on a blue couch hand-sewing a piece of orange and pink patterned fabric.

Giving new life to unwanted garments

London-based fashion brand Ahluwalia integrates pre-loved clothing and fabric from the community into limited-edition garments.

Panipat, a city in northern India, is known as both the recycling capital of India and the cast-off capital of the world. It’s where huge global retailers send unsold inventory, or “deadstock,” and where unwanted goods from charity shops often end up.

But acclaimed British fashion brand Ahluwalia sees Panipat and deadstock not as an end point, but rather as an exciting inspiration point for their design process. As Founder and Creative Director Priya Ahluwalia, told Vogue, “I design clothes that use repurposed materials instead of using new ones, often choosing vintage or deadstock. We partner with wholesale recyclers and bigger brands to reuse their liability materials.”

Now, she wants to get the public involved. Sustainability is a huge effort that takes more than one person or one company, and Ahluwalia is encouraging fashion fans across the UK to donate their gently used garments for creative reuse. She and her team are making big strides in cutting down on fashion waste, setting an example for the industry and helping make fashion as a whole more renewable.

Ahluwalia has partnered with Microsoft to create Circulate—an experience and program designed to bring new life to loved but unwanted clothing—by inviting customers to contribute to an upcoming collection.

Part of the Ahluwalia.world site, Circulate highlights various “open calls” to the fashion community in Britian, where the Ahluwalia team requests specific garments that will help make up future looks for the brand.

Britons can upload photos and videos of their own garments to see if they’re a match for a collection. Azure Computer Vision then analyzes these images in a matter of seconds, confirming vital garment details—like type of fabric, color, and brand information—cutting down on guesswork and adding in quality controls.

A Black girl’s hand holds a mobile phone, as she takes a picture of a denim shirt hanging on the back of her door. The Circulate website is on her phone, with directions on how to take and upload a photo.

Once the garment passes digital inspection and has been confirmed as useful for a future collection, the customer will receive a pre-paid shipping label to send their garment to the Ahluwalia studio. Assuming that the clothing passes the team’s in-person inspection, the customer is awarded points that can be used towards a future Ahluwalia purchase—and the knowledge that they helped make a wasteful industry a bit more sustainable.

An animated gif of a Black teenager in a color-block track suit, sitting in a room with colorful fabrics and leather shoes, reading about "Circulate" on a cell phone.

For the Ahluwalia team, Circulate is a way to scale the business using Microsoft technology and prove that sustainability can be both inclusive and easy, while connecting to a tradition of reuse that feels very familiar.

“In both Indian and Nigerian cultures, it is tradition to pass clothes and personal effects down from generation to generation,” says Ahluwalia. “I personally have lots of special items from different family members that are very dear to me, for example my great grandad’s first English dictionary and many clothes my mum wore in her twenties. This ritual was a key inspiration when developing Circulate.”

Try out Circulate

If you're in the UK, check out Circulate. Be part of a more renewable fashion industry that’s making a difference and leading the charge for a more sustainable world.