Many argue that, after the pandemic, we need to shift towards a circular economy in which waste and pollution are removed from the system. Here, then, are four examples of clothing businesses that have been using lockdown to put this ideal into practice.
MAKING CHILDREN SUSTAINABLE
Marketers view the early years of childhood as a golden opportunity for getting mums and dads to buy more stuff–not least because young children grow so fast. New parents are targeted with endless cute clothes and commodities for child-rearing, being constantly told that such purchases are essential to good parenting.
Inspired by the Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake, who developed flexible pleating initially for ballet dancers, this revolutionary concept applies engineering principles to material.
Yasin’s children’s garments, which are branded Petit Pli, stretch to fit kids aged three months to three years–offering parents a sustainable alternative to disposable clothing. More recently he has also added unisex adult clothing to his collection, marketing this new range as clothes that are built to last.
Vigga is another operator that is trying to make children’s clothing more sustainable, but in a different way. The Danish company offers a subscription-based rented clothing line for infants and small children.
Parents who subscribe to this service receive clothing every three months in the early years as their baby grows, and less frequently thereafter. When the clothes are returned to Vigga, they are washed and repaired for further use. This reflects a circular system where every garment is used several times, ensuring a lower environmental impact.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF MALL
In the small Swedish city of Eskiltuna, a few kilometers west of Stockholm, is the world’s first recycling mall. Known as ReTuna Återbruksgalleria, all the clothes sold are recycled, while other products, including foods, are organically sourced or sustainably produced. The mall opened in 2015 and is deliberately located next to the town’s recycling centre, which makes it a convenient destination for the shops in the mall to pick up materials for their businesses.
The idea was driven by local politicians with the ambition for Eskilstuna to be a good example of addressing the challenges of sustainability. Store owners and employees go through all the donated goods to see what can be repaired, fixed and converted for selling.
With close links to the local school, the mall provides workshops, lectures and themed days to educate wider society on sustainability practice. This also encourages people into the physical space, a strategy that could be useful to draw shoppers back to UK high streets after the pandemic.
THE ‘FOR DAYS’ MODEL
U.S. clothing firm For Days was inspired by the volume of clothing hoarded in consumer wardrobes. In acknowledging that we need to buy less, For Days encourages customers to send their old clothes in the post. It doesn’t matter whether they were made by For Days in the first place, and people receive discounts for new items in return.
If the circular economy is to succeed, of course, consumers have to embrace it. The inevitable problem is that each of these four models is slightly more expensive than the mass market, and the rock-bottom prices of fast-fashion clothes have reduced the threshold that the average consumer would see as the maximum they would pay for something.
The trouble is that these higher prices reflect the true cost of resources, production, and so on. So while such enterprises will attract consumers who are particularly concerned about sustainability and their carbon footprints, there will be limits to what they can achieve.