How Montreal’s Laugh By Lafaille is Pushing the Boundaries of Upcycling

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Photography by Samuel Fournier.

The upcycling-focused brand evolves aspects of tailoring for Fall 2020.

“I don’t like fashion when it takes itself too seriously,” says Benjamin Lafaille, designer and founder of the upcycling-focused brand, Laugh By Lafaille. Since launching several seasons ago, the ungendered label has offered a range of quirky pieces like graphic t-shirts and asymmetrical blazers, all made from previously-used materials; Laugh was created after Lafaille decided to temporarily shelve his eponymous RTW line, which used new textiles in its collections. And while the label might be named for the lighter side of life, there’s some serious intent behind its new creations. Laugh’s Fall launch boasts even more tailored fare and garments done with meticulous quilted details, and Lafaille has also begun experimenting with dyeing to lend some consistency to pieces within the collection.

“Upcycling still has a lot of boundaries,” he says. “[Material] sourcing is different, and quality cannot be as optimized as with new garments. And everything is unique.” Such limitations pose a challenge in wholesaling for brands like Laugh, and it’s unsurprising that it and other upcycling-centric labels primarily sell directly to their audience right now. “For bigger retailers, it’s scary to buy upcycled pieces,” he says. Still, the designer seems certain that with a growing interest in mindful consumption–even more spurred on with consumers’ changing habits because of COVID-19–upcycling practices will become more prevalent within brands big and small.

“I started by making pieces for me and my friends, and then stylists started contacting me to borrow pieces for shoots,” says Lafaille of his journey with the Laugh brand; he also notes that a relationship breakup and becoming a vegetarian played into a new perspective and “changed values”. Though he wasn’t sure what direction his new pursuit would take after putting his initial brand on hold, Lafaille says he was driven by the question of, “How can we push the boundaries of upcycling?” Customers particularly gravitated towards Laugh’s blazers, and the new collection includes a style from a composition of upcycled t-shirts. “We’re thinking about the way a garment is made,” says Lafaille of the brand’s design process. “Why a shirt, for example, has to be a certain type of fabric. Why couldn’t it be another type of fabric?”

As an innovator in the fashion space, Lafaille is optimistic about the changes–and potential for change–within the fashion industry’s traditional practices. He highlights that a shift in the cycle in which clothing is made, purchased by store buyers, and sold would allow a freedom for designers that would be much welcomed. “It’s very difficult for designers to keep the pace of seasons,” he says, adding that even two collections a year is a big undertaking for smaller brands. Given his experience with upcycling and the many challenges that model of business presents, it’s heartening to know positivity prevails.

Click through for key looks from the upcoming collection.

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