Upcycling Your Sneakers

From working long hours in the office, running errands around town to simply going away for the weekend for an adventure, sneakers have become our go to shoe. The Sneaker industry has seen an increase in sales over the past few years and is currently a $79 billion business and shows no signs of slowing down. This is an undisputed cultural symbol for our times as it can been seen in sportswear, streetstyle and catwalk fashion, but there is a bigger issue at stake which is fast fashion consumption. Since the popularity for sneakers has increased, many fashion retailers have produced cheap, poor quality replicas to satisfy consumer demands. But the problem is that many shoes and other apparel items end up being thrown away once broken, due to poor quality.

In today’s world, clothing is being consumed quicker than retailers can produce, and old items end up in landfills where it takes ages to decompose as it is not biodegradable. This solution to this fast fashion issue would be sustainability and upcycling.


Many fashion retailers are aware that the fashion industry is the world’s second largest polluter and have changed their production methods in order to reduce greenhouse emissions. For example, Adidas has produced their sneakers in a sustainable way by using old plastic materials found in the ocean and turned it into a fabric that is wearable. By doing this, Adidas is contributing to ocean clean ups and using less harmful materials when manufacturing their shoes. On the other hand, Nike has used biodegradable fabrics such as bamboo and jute when producing their shoes so if the item is thrown away by a consumer, it will decompose in a short period of time. As a consumer sitting at home with multiple shoes in your cupboard, what can you do to help decrease landfill amount? The answer is upcycling.

As a fashion student, I have done a significant amount of research on the fast fashion industry and realized the harmful impacts we have created as humans, which is why I turned to sneaker upcycling. Currently I run a small business called biancagouveiacustoms (Instagram- @biancagouveiacustoms), where I take old sneakers and upcycle them into something new. I do this by cleaning the old shoes and painting/drawing on a custom design that the customer wants. By doing this, it gives your old sneakers a second chance as they now have a new look and can be worn again.


As an artist, I encourage people not to throw their old items out, but rather cut it up/draw on it and turn it into something new. With the current issues facing the fashion industry, we as consumers need to decrease our consumption amounts and become more innovative by coming up with new ideas on how to upcycle our old garments.

So how does it all work? At biancagouveiacustoms, you can bring in a pair of your sneakers, and don’t worry, it can be any type of shoe whether the fabric is canvas, leather, plastic, rubber etc., and a custom job can be done. The next step would be to share some ideas on what you enjoy or a few favourite colours you like. For example, if you are a person who loves the colour blue, your shoes will then be painted with a blue design or if you like bees, a bee design will be custom drawn/painted onto your sneakers. Not only do we customize sneakers, but we give your shoes an entire makeover by getting a good scrub down and repair any old scratches or paint chips. By doing this, your shoes will look brand new out of the box.


Once you’ve received your custom pair, you have now given your sneakers a second life, but look after them and to do this, wash them the same way they were created- by hand. When washing by hand, it saves a huge amount of water and does not damage the fabric like a regular washing machine would do. Another tip on how to look after your sneakers is to buy quality – yes, sneakers with a higher price tag tend to be the best quality sneakers but in the long run, that one expensive pair would’ve been equivalent to 10 cheap pairs of sneakers which will result in them being thrown away. Once again, I encourage people to use this service as it does not only give your overall style an original look, but it decreases the current issues faced in the fashion industry. By revamping your old shoes, you have chosen the environmentally friendly way by saving a pair from ending up in a landfill which will take ages to decompose. As consumers, let’s be more sustainable and creative with our fashion choices.

For more information, log onto Instagram and go to @biancagouveiacustoms.