Up-shirt by Upmade

Up-shirt is an ethical tshirt initiative by Upmade. The shirts are made with textile waste from the large-scale company Beximco, who produce over 15 million garments per year. 

By taking those waste products, the team at Upmade, headed by Reet Aus, are able to create a shirt at a minimal cost to the environment.

The project is an interesting one, as it actually relies on fast-fashion to exist - it just recognises that there is an issue with the inordinate amounts of waste created by fast-fashion factories and suppliers. By taking the waste into their own hands, they are creating brand new shirts by simply altering stitching patterns of the typical tshirt.

Instead of growing and creating new cotton, by relying on waste products from garment factories the water usage of the shirts is kept to a minimum. In addition, energy used in creating the shirts and the CO2 produced is minimal too. In fact, some of the Up-Shirt designs use up to 93% less energy, and produce 89% less carbon than that of your typical tshirt.

Men's design m103, highlighting some of the Up-shirt's environmental benefits

Men's design m103, highlighting some of the Up-shirt's environmental benefits

And women's design w104

And women's design w104

Reet Aus has plenty of experience in sustainable and ethical fashion, as she has been producing upcycled collections for years. She has also completed a PhD in sustainable fashion design, which first linked her to Beximco and the idea for the Up-Shirt started to gain shape.

Whilst the Up-Shirt seems like a simple and novel way of using mass-produced waste, what I also see is a team that's wanting to change the practices of the fast-fashion industry. A much bigger goal, but with the mountains of waste products created during garment creation, it is certainly a noble one.

What we can learn from David Dimbleby's tattoo

In the same week that a natural disaster has decimated the lives of thousands in the Philippines, mainstream media has been wetting itself with excitement at the chance to gloss over 'depressing' news with some light-hearted controversy. That arrived when David Dimbleby was tattooed during the filming of a new BBC series on maritime history. I think it's great that David Dimbleby got a tattoo. Why? Because it shows some kind of societal acceptance for tattoos now? Because I love the art he's now baring on his right shoulder? Because I think old people with tattoos are just awesome? No, no and no.

David Dimbleby
David Dimbleby

I think it's great because Dimbleby chose to get his tattoo as a culmination of his learning around naval history and the culture for tattoos in that world. His choice of design, a scorpion, is a reflection of his star-sign, Scorpio and is tucked away discreetly on his back. The tattoo was something he 'always wanted' and getting one was a 'dream come true'. He took a decision, after potentially decades of desire, to get his tattoo despite the potential controversy and criticism he'd receive as a person in such a position.

This is the stark opposite of the modern day tattoo recipient. Disclaimer: I love tattoos. Tattoos are great. I can talk for hours to the handful of friends I know whose tattoos are meaningful, thought-out pieces of work, and every inch of their body has been crafted into something that they have desired, planned, and is for themselves.

Sadly, the counterweight to that handful of friends is a boatload of others whose tattoos are an expensive, lifelong mark of a short period where they thought tattoos would serve to get them noticed, and maybe the occasional comment of 'nice tat bro'. The exact opposite of Dimbleby, these people hop onto Google Images, type in the idea that they woke up with that morning, print off the image and get it tattooed onto the most in-your-face (sometimes literally on their face) area of their body that they can find at the nearest walk-in tattoo parlour (a problem that perpetuates the issue, sure, but there's no question of chicken/egg scenarios here - walk-in parlours are merely catering to this audience). The pinnacle of this being a few years ago when someone showed me his latest tattoo: A gorilla's face. On his hand. Why? Because 'it looks sick'.

Dimbleby's tattoo shouldn't be viewed as a sign that tattoos are finally acceptable in mainstream society. It's a sign that we should curtail our obsession with tattoos. Tattoos should be meaningful. They should have more time spent on them in planning than it takes for you to eat your morning bowl of Cap'n Crunch. But most of all a tattoo should never be for anyone but yourself. It's your mark, and it's going to be with you for life. Make sure it counts for you. If your tattoo is anything less than a 'dream come true', then don't do it.

I enjoyed the Guardian article about a future of tattooed OAPs, but it suggests that in a few decades time young people will be avoiding tattoos in fear of looking like their grandparents. I hope that never happens. Instead, I hope tattoos become part of our culture in a deeper way. They are a method of telling our own narratives, and that's something everyone needs to understand, young and old. Deeper meaning in the art we put on our bodies will bring deeper meaning to the culture itself. Let's not view Dimbleby's tattoo as anything other than a confirmation of this.

Just What Is 'True Icon' Anyway?


Welcome to my long overdue explanation of what True Icon means to me. When Rob and I started the site we agreed we’d each write what the site was about and what it meant to us as our first posts.

Well, Rob stuck to our promise while I wrote my post months ago and subsequently scrapped it. I’m a perfectionist who eventually, grudgingly, settles for less than perfect; this time in the form of a stream of conscious blast of blogging.

So what does True Icon mean to me? When Rob first came up with the name and the tag “Become the Icon” it grew on me over the space of the next 5 minutes to encompass a lot of what I wanted the site to be. I’m not sure if it came endowed with meaning that took me 5 minutes to understand (It’s a strong possibility) or if I subscribed my own meaning to it. At this point it probably doesn’t matter.

So what is it? In short, we want True Icon sell ethical and stylish clothes. Both Rob and I have been vegan for a number of years and we’ve found ethical ‘fashion’ to be at best highly suspect. We’re hoping to provide organic, fair trade and fashionable clothing for both men and women as soon as possible. As you can probably tell from the state of the site at the moment, neither of us our web designers; we’re working on the shop functionality and going over every aspect of our products to make sure they’re as ethical as they can possibly be.

In the meantime, we’re throwing out material on anything and everything that we care about. Loosely broken into categories:

Culture: be that books, games, music, films or what have you. It’s a broad title but if it’s good enough for the Guardian, it’s good enough for me.

Fitness: We’re both fitness obsessed and we think everyone should be. Expect posts on workouts, diets, Martial Arts and how to generally make yourself into a superhero.

Essays: In which we cover topics in depth that we have been thinking about recently. This is a bit of a “File as Misc.” section.

Food: Always vegan. Nearly always healthy, fitness focused, quick and convenient. Apart from the odd indulgence including Oreo Ice Cream and Raw Food Vegan Snickers (both coming soon!). Check out the True Icon Rule of 7 for an explanation of the types of food we cook.

Technology: It has a larger and larger part in all our lives and almost everyone is fascinated by some part of it – we fall under the category of ‘almost everyone’, so here it is.

Fashion: Last but by no means least. We’ll cover brands and products we back as well as debates around just what exactly ethical fashion is anyway.

The link in all this is that we will cover things from an ethical standpoint. So if you’re an ethical dude or dudette, or you’d like to be, you’re in the right place

Finally getting onto the subject of the name, it’s easier to approach from our tagline “Become the Icon”.

I’ve heard a lot of vegan jokes over the years. But my favourite?

How do you know if someone is vegan?

Don’t worry. They’ll tell you.

It’s genius.

We’ve all met the preachy vegan types. They’re so stoked with themselves and their attitude to life.

“Would you like a crisp Mark?”

“Umm... no thanks. I take my crisps cruelty free.”

This is a slight exaggeration and in reality things are a little more nuanced. But no matter what way you look at it, no matter what type of vegan you are - it’s so very, very true.

It’s true about any ethical or moral choice. I wouldn’t be vegan if I didn’t think it was the right thing to do. And if I think it’s the right thing to do it would follow that I want others to be vegan as well.  And what better way to get people to be vegan than telling them about it, right?

But there are different ways to let people know.

1)   You can bombard them with facts.

Facts about why meat is bad, why diary is bad, why animal testing is bad. Facts about how these things damage the environment, global society and perhaps even your health.

Facts about how bee’s numbers are critically low, how we’re over fishing to the brink of disaster, how inefficient beef production is. Ad infinitum, ad infinitum, ad infinitum.

The reaction is unlikely to be a favourable one. It’s a bit like telling someone their hair is crap and that you don’t like their music taste and then asking them to buy your latest record. It’s not going to work.

Option two then.

2)   You can set an example.

Live your life to its fullest and live it ethically. Be an informed, healthy, attractive individual.

People might comment on your food, your clothes, your energy levels or physique. At this point, if you like, you can mention you’re vegan or vegetarian or that your clothes are fair-trade, ethical and just downright awesome in every way.

They’ve asked, so let them know. Let them know that being vegan is one of the best things you’ve ever done for you.

Over time they’ll see how you live your life and they’ll start to see that maybe they could make some changes. Maybe how you live will work for them too.

I’ve seen this with so many of my friends, family memebers and collegues. They come to making ethical choices in their own time and in their own way. They might not go vegan but they might shop more locally, eat less meat or avoid animal tested products.

Anyone with an ethical conscience wants immediate change. And it can happen. We will fight for it with pen and with fire, with protest and with boycott.

But first we need to set an example of how life can be.

That’s what True Icon means to me. I hope to set an example of just how easy and enjoyable it is to live a compassionate and considerate lifestyle. Most importantly, I hope you’ll join me.


If you’ve read this far – major props. Please get in touch with us and let us know how we can make the site better and what you’d like us to cover. We’d love to hear from you.

Cheers, Kai &