Recycled clothing is making waves in the fashion world. Whether it be the perfect thrift store find, or a hand-me-down from a family member, most consumers have been participating in recycled fashion for some time. Many designers have also caught on to the idea that clothing made from recycled materials is not only better for the planet, it is also increasingly popular with customers looking to minimize the environmental footprint of their wardrobes.
From Patagonia to Simple, many clothing and footwear companies are using recycled materials, such as plastic from recycled PET bottles and rubber from recycled tires, as a main ingredient in their collections.
Better by Design
Keeping clothing out of the landfill has a two-fold benefit. In addition to the obvious one of reducing overall waste, creating clothing from recycled materials greatly reduces the amount of natural resources necessary to produce such products, including the land and water used to grow cotton, as well as pesticides and energy used in the agricultural and production process.
Cotton, for example, has a hefty pesticide habit. According to the Sustainable Cotton Project, “Cotton cultivation uses approximately 11 percent of the world’s pesticides, though it is grown on just 2.4 percent of the world’s arable land.”
Staying Warm, Keeping the Planet Cool
Many companies are catching on to this new trend and are not only advertising, but are also educating consumers about the benefits of recycled clothing. Playback, a new clothing company which makes recycled t-shirts and sweatshirts, had a life cycle analysis performed on their sweatshirt compared to a conventional sweatshirt. Considering the findings, the recycled product seems like the unequivocal choice. A Playback sweatshirt had:
- 68 percent less global warming potential
- 33 percent less land used
- 49 percent less air pollution produced
- 80 percent less waste generated
- 25 percent fewer carcinogens produced
- 79 percent less fossil fuels used
A Recycling Redux
From independent designers such as Zachary’s Smile, which sells its vintage and recycled designs in two shops in New York City and Los Angeles, to mainstream purveyors such as Keds, more and more clothing and footwear manufacturers are beginning to see the environmental and business benefits of producing clothing made from recycled goods.
Zachary’s Smile sells vintage clothing as well as new designs that are created partially or completely from recycled fabrics. Keds recently launched a green label with shoes made from organic cotton, partially recycled rubber outsoles and shoelaces made from recycled PET bottles.
According to Jenni Nelson, the designer for Zachary’s Smile, “Working in the garment industry, you see a lot of the waste that is created from making new garments as well as the many vintage garments that end up going to the landfill. It is creatively inspiring to take some of these pieces that would otherwise be waste and repurpose them in some way. We strive to create special pieces that people will want to keep in their wardrobe for a long time.”
Truly One of a Kind
Many companies are also embracing the anti-mass produced model because it is a way to offer customers unique items. ‘e ko logic, for example, makes all of its pieces out of whatever materials the designers are able to find.
According to the company website, “[They] hunt for treasures and dismantle each garment, taking time to recognize its unique character and individual beauty.”
This shift towards recycled clothing can also be found on handcrafted sites such as Etsy, where a quick perusal of clothing and accessories turns up many one-of-a-kind, handcrafted (and affordable!) styles.
Consider the Customer
In addition to using recycled materials as a building blocks for many of their products, Patagonia is taking environmental efforts a step further by encouraging customers to recycle clothing through its Common Threads Recycling Program.
The initiative started in 2005 and has since expanded to include the following clothing, which can be dropped off at any Patagonia store:
- Capilene Baselayers
- Patagonia fleece
- Polartec fleece (from any clothing maker)
- Patgonia cotton T-shirts
- Additional products that carry the Common Threads tag
Consumers play a large role in driving the latest fads in fashion, and the more they ask for and purchase clothing made from recycled material, the more incentive there will be for designers and retail stores to sell these types of products.
After all, fashion is about starting new trends, and those that make the most creative use of our limited resources are the coolest of all.