Meet the Man Upcycling Old Jeans into Denim Sunglasses
The U.K.-based designer is on a mission to prove that extraordinary things can be made responsibly
What’s not to love about your favorite pair of jeans? From an environmental perspective, quite a bit.
For starters, denim production requires a significant amount of water and energy, produces carbon emissions that contribute to climate change and often uses toxic chemicals that pollute waterways. And then there’s the issue of recycling—or, rather, the lack thereof. According to the EPA, out of the approximately 17 million tons of textiles produced every year, only 13% is recycled, and a whopping 11 million tons of clothing and footwear ends up in landfills. While it’s difficult to suss out just how many jeans are a part of that number, with at least 4 billion denim garments produced worldwide every year and fast fashion on the rise, there’s no doubt that they substantially contribute to textile waste.
But there is some good news here: More denim brands are embracing sustainable initiatives, with cleaner manufacturing and consumer-based recycling programs. And other eco-friendly companies are making a dent in this problem by upcycling this old clothing to give denim waste a second chance at life—or, in the case of Mosevic Eyewear, an entirely new identity. Self-taught U.K. designer Jack Spencer creates thoughtfully crafted, incredibly cool upcycled sunglasses, handcrafted from old jeans, that will make you look at upcycling and sustainable living in a whole new way.
An upcycling idea is born
In the late aughts, Spencer, who has a background in sustainable product design, was working with composite materials including carbon fiber. This strong yet lightweight material, which is made by binding layers of carbon fibers with resin, is popular in aerospace and engineering, but it got Spencer thinking about other applications—namely, in the fashion world.
A self-described fan of unusual eyewear, he had the idea to turn “floppy denim” into “solid denim” and create frames using a similar technique. Nearly a decade and hundreds of prototypes later, he figured out the ideal way to do that and founded Mosevic. (Mosevic is a family name and a nod to his Norwegian heritage.)
Spencer is the first to admit that “a bit of upcycling isn’t going to ‘save the planet.’” But, as he says, “if more things were made with a bit of patience and were designed to last a lifetime, then we would be getting somewhere.” And that’s his goal with Mosevic—to show that extraordinary things can be made responsibly.
How unwanted “thigh-wear” becomes eyewear
The intensive process, which takes two weeks in Spencer’s workshop in Cornwall, England, involves piecing together many layers of denim, infusing them with resin and then pressing them together until they dry. These frames aren’t just topped with denim; they are almost entirely created from it. And in case you were wondering, they are water-resistant and repel sweat and sunscreen, just like regular sunglasses.
Spencer then adds brass details and lenses, and—voila!—you have a fabulous pair of made-to-order sunglasses that customers say are “substantial” and “lightweight,” as well as durable.
The brand’s first collection, Shades of Denim, contains five frame shapes, all of which are available in blue or black denim and feature polarized Zeiss lenses. Have a prescription? You can purchase stand-alone frames.
Keeping discarded denim out of landfills
Spencer currently sources denim from local thrift shops, as well as leftovers and redundant stock from clothing companies. As Mosevic grows, he would like to partner directly with clothing manufacturers to source waste fabrics from all parts of the process. That would include scraps, remnants and offcuts from the production process that would otherwise be considered waste and thrown away.
Beyond the landfill issue, Spencer pays close attention to the components that need to be outsourced, such as the metal fasteners and packaging materials. When choosing factories, he considers environmental factors, such as the businesses’ carbon emissions, and looks for the closest suppliers possible in order to reduce the environmental effects of transport.
Taking sustainability even further
Spencer is also looking to improve upon his own operations. He currently uses a synthetic resin in the production process, since it holds up to the demands of everyday wear. But eventually, he’d like to explore using biodegradable resin, or at least something that’s partly biodegradable.
And that’s just the start.
“I am envisioning a company that is recognized worldwide and sets a standard in the slow-fashion movement,” he told Cornwall Live. “I want to be successful and sell a lot of sunglasses. But I want to do it in a responsible way that has as little impact as possible on the environment.”
For more innovative ways that people are upcycling, check out our stories on the company that transforms discarded flip-flops into stunning sculptures and the student who’s turning chip bags into sleeping bags for the homeless.
- CALPIRG: “The Fashion Industry Waste Is Drastically Contributing to Climate Change”
- NRDC: “Are My Denim Jeans Bad for the Environment?”
- EPA: “Textiles: Material-Specific Data”
- Cornwall Live: “Designer fights fast fashion with sunglasses made from old jeans”
- HuffPost: “Mosevic Eyewear Makes the Raddest Sunglasses Out of Unwanted Jeans”
- Kickstarter: “Shades of Denim | Unwanted Thigh-Wear to Luxury Eyewear”