Big Retailers Now Sell Reclaimed Pieces, But At What Cost?

Big Retailers Now Sell Reclaimed Pieces, But At What Cost?

Tiffany Finley
May 24, 2011

As reclaimed, vintage, and reused turn into buzz words for large retailers, we can't help but feel like they lose a bit of their value. Restoration Hardware had reuse-inspired pieces for quite sometime, including burlap sack pillows that weren't originally burlap. Their new line-up of beautiful pieces for outdoor spaces and gardens are made from truly reclaimed pieces, but how sustainable is it to buy out all of the vintage barrels to make chandeliers?

At an incredible pace, large higher end retailers are purchasing vintage items and wood planks in bulk to remake them into design-wonders. The reuse enthusiast part of me is so excited to think of all of the materials that are being upcycled that may have otherwise gone to sit in landfills. The other part of me is curious to know just where and how they are sourcing these unique items. If they have thousands of vintage, hand-painted 50 year old rolling pins from India, then how many were there to begin with? And just how sustainable is it to remove these items from their original cultures and place them somewhere else for purely ornamental value?

There are some serious questions surrounding sourcing, ethics, safety, and availability of these materials. That is not to say that large retailers are not acting in a sustainable manner, or that large-scale upcycling is by definition unsustainable. There is scant information about the actual sourcing and resource sustainability of the materials used in these products. So although we are inspired by the idea of chandeliers made from vintage wine barrels, we are equally curious to know just where those wine barrels came from, why there are suddenly so many to be re-designed, and how they are purchased.

Any thoughts from our readers on this topic?

(Image: Restoration Hardware)

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