Sustainability within the fashion industry is certainly a hot topic right now, but sadly it isn’t a new one. The industry has hit the headlines over the last 20 years as part of a number of social and environmental stories, starting with reports on poor working conditions back in the 1990’s. Today, sustainable fashion is on the tip of everyone’s tongue, not only for the all-important environmental issues, but because if we keep going in this way, the industry itself will suffer from the hefty rise in resourcing costs.
There’s no denying that the facts make a shocking read and fashion is taking its place as one of the world’s most polluting industries. A recent report by Drapers highlights the reality of the situation and tells us that 100 billion items of clothing are produced every year. Of that, at least one truck worth of textiles are thrown away every second. In the UK alone, our unwanted clothing makes up 300, 000 tonnes of textiles going to landfill. Sadly, up to 95% of that could be recycled or worn again.
And it isn’t just our landfills that are filling up due to unwanted clothing; our oceans are suffering too. According to Fashion Revolution, 35% of the world’s microplastics in our oceans originate from clothing and textiles. What’s more, around 500,000 tonnes of microplastics make their way into our oceans every year due to washing.
So what can be done? Well, lots actually. And thankfully the team at Pimble are starting to see a real change in the industry.
Recycling is one of the key areas that big name brands are putting their efforts into. Adidas has now sold 1 million pairs of shoes made from recycled plastic (each pair is the equivalent of 11 plastic bottles being saved from entering our oceans). ASOS have claimed they will refrain from using materials such as mohair, cashmere and silk in their designs and plan to have 100% sustainable cotton within their range by 2025. They have also talked about actioning a recycling programme as soon as 2020, similar in it’s thinking to John Lewis who are piloting a ‘buyback’ service, allowing customers to have older clothing items from the John Lewis Collection bought back when no longer used.
Marks and Spencer are another well-known name in retail taking their responsibilities very seriously. As a partner in The Better Cotton Initiative, they already use 77% sustainable cotton within their products. M&S are a large company, with a wide range of products and an often complicated supply process – but when it comes to using sustainable materials, as they say, “If we can do it, everyone can”.
And it isn’t just the big players that are making changes. Smaller retailers are playing their part too. Some, like The Cotton Story, are introducing sustainable materials into their collections, and making changes within their factories – ensuring all plastic, cardboard and metal are recycled or re-used. Some are producing their clothing in smaller batches, avoiding over-production, while others are making their environmentally sound products a big part of their brand offering.
Réclamer are a small company who specialise in selling sustainable swimwear, for example. Their products are made from recycled polyester yarn that comes from plastic bottles, which is tougher and longer lasting than virgin made polyester. They also only produce an exclusive amount of the products they sell.
Another small brand, incorporating some innovative thinking are Vigga, who lease baby clothes and maternity wear. This amazing idea comes from the view that babies grow so fast that new clothes are barely worn before they no longer fit. Likewise, many women don’t choose to wear their maternity wear for any longer than necessary and items are generally thrown away after a few months wear. Vigga allow customers to choose their favourite maternity pieces and baby clothes and pay for them per month. When finished with, the clothes get returned for others to use.
For many of these brands, their environmental credentials are a big part of their brand offering and it’s this that is appealing to customers. Here at Pimble we are certainly seeing that consumers are demanding a new vision from retailers and brands that are actively making changes are being rewarded.
We’re working more and more with retailers who are looking to become sustainable, or who have already implemented change. We believe that sustainable fashion is the way forward and love working with vendors who share a similar view. When we help brands go through an RFP process, as we did recently with Vivienne Westwood, we ask to see their sustainability credentials. Knowing what is important to clients as a brand allows us to help them make the best choices going forward.
It isn’t easy to make change, and becoming sustainable may seem like a tall order. But with some innovative thinking and working with the right people, both in-house and externally, we hope to help many more brands achieve their sustainability goals.
If you would like to find out more just come and talk to us here at Pimble.