The innovations & enterprises rethinking fashion
Fashion Revolution Day, 24 April, is a growing global movement coordinated by the UK-based not-for-profit Community Interest Company Fashion Revolution. It aims “to bring people from all over the world together to use the power of fashion to change the story for the people who make the world’s clothes.”
“We want fashion to become a force for good.” – Fashion Revolution
Why 24 April?
On the same date in 2013, 1,134 people were killed and over 2,500 were injured in Dhaka, Bangladesh when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed.
“Fast fashion” has become the norm in many countries, with prices kept low through the exploitation of workers in sweatshop conditions. As well as the human cost of fashion, there is also a significant impact on the environment. This is not only due to factory processes but the way we, as individuals, consume fashion. According to this article on Huffington Post as part of their Reclaim campaign, “On average each American throws away roughly 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles per year, equivalent in weight to more than 200 men’s T-shirts.”
The fashion revolution – innovations & enterprises worth looking out for
Tonlé is a social enterprise zero-waste fashion brand founded by American designer Rachel Faller. Tonlé uses material scraps to create stylish products and reuses all its own scraps. The online store ships internationally with production based in Cambodia where it employs local women and pays them a fair wage. Each Tonlé product carries a label made from recycled paper that is signed by the person who made it.
Fabric of Change
Fabric of Change is a collaboration between Ashoka and the C&A Foundation. It is a global initiative to support innovators for a fair and sustainable apparel industry. Its vision is “transforming the apparel industry as a force for good.” Fabric of Change Innovators include María Almazán (Latitude) and Saif Rashid (APON) (more below). Both recently featured in this article on Forbes.
Based in Spain, Latitude is a clothing brand that runs its own sustainable factories. All parts of the non-profit organisation are in line with its ethical values. And the factory is open source so that other factories and brands can learn from the model and adapt their own practices to become more ethical and sustainable.
APON is an employee wellbeing initiative that empowers factory workers in Bangladesh to improve their lives. Through APON, workers can buy discounted household supplies at shops set up inside the factories. These shops also offer free healthcare and medical insurance funded through commission from shop sales.
Coclico makes high-quality stylish footwear from recycled and renewable materials. The entire line is produced in a family-run factory using sustainable practices in Mallorca, Spain. Its boutique is based in New York City and it also has an online shop.
Ethical and eco fashion brand People Tree has been partnering with Fair Trade producers, garment workers, artisans and farmers in the developing world for over 25 years. People Tree promotes “slow fashion” as a more sustainable alternative to the widespread unsustainable and unethical practices of fast fashion. People Tree products are available online and on the high street in John Lewis.
Juna is a UK-based ethical jewellery brand. Founded in 2014 it uses ethically sourced materials, including fair trade gold and recycled sterling silver.
Artisan & Fox
Artisan & Fox is a social enterprise that connects local artisans in developing countries to consumers through an online ethical fashion marketplace. It guarantees a fair price and increased incomes for local artisans. Following its pilot in 2016 with artisans in Nepal, it has expanded to working with communities in Afghanistan, Kenya, Guatemala and Mexico. Its recent crowdfunding campaign raised over $25,000 USD.
UPMADE® uses software and design to upcycle textile waste into usable material. UPMADE® enables brands and manufacturers to apply its industrial upcycling method and obtain certification. One of the first product examples is the Up-shirt, a 100% upcycled t-shirt made from leftover materials. No new fabric is produced to make the t-shirts and each t-shirt saves an average of 91% water and produces 85% less CO2 emissions. Currently, the team at UPMADE® is focused on getting international brands to convert industrial waste into revenue through upcycling as “it is the brands who hold the key to cutting down industrial textile waste.”
But what about the big brands?
Big brands have a long way to go but some of those leading the way…
In 1993, Patagonia was the first outdoor clothing manufacturer to use fleece made from post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic bottles. Some of its other products are made from reclaimed wool and reclaimed cotton. They also use recycled wool, recycled down and recycled polyester and nylon. Patagonia promotes repairing over replacing through its “Worn Wear” program, which “celebrates the stories we wear, keeps your gear in action longer and provides an easy way to recycle Patagonia garments when they’re beyond repair.”
AEG’s Care Label Project
The Care Label Project aims to “inspire, educate and update the way we all care for our clothes.” Partnering with a range of emerging designers and clothing manufacturers, AEG wants to challenge care labels, encouraging people not to overwash, use lower temperatures and avoid dry cleaning to reduce environmental impact and extend the life of your clothes. According to AEG, “90% of the clothes we own are thrown away long before they should be”.
Adidas has partnered with Parley to make sportswear out of plastic from the sea “spinning the problem into a solution. The threat into a thread.” In 2016, Adidas made the world’s first shoe using Parley Ocean Plastic™. FC Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have both worn football shirts made from sea plastic. And most recently, Adidas launched a range of Parley Ocean Plastic™ swimwear.
Nike Grind and Nike Flyknit
Nike Grind is material made from recycled footwear, plastic bottles and manufacturing scraps from Nike’s factories. It is now used in 71% of Nike footwear and apparel. Its Flyknit technology “prevents millions of pounds of waste from ever reaching the landfill”. Read more on Nike’s sustainable innovations.
Marks & Spencer
M&S has an interactive online map that shows the locations of each of their factories around the world. They are also committed to ensuring 70% of its cotton comes from sustainable sources by 2020. In partnership with Oxfam, M&S runs a “shwopping” programme, encouraging the public to donate unwanted clothes to Oxfam in their stores. “Nothing ends up in landfill” with every item either resold, reused or recycled. “Shwopping. Ordinary Clothes Made Extraordinary.”
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