According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 10,530 tons of textiles were sent to landfill in the U.S. in 2015 This is equivalent to about 80 pounds of textile waste (clothes, shoes, accessories etc.) per person per year—coveted items people once frantically hunted down, now thrown in garbage bags and sent to lay buried somewhere in Nevada. But simply refusing to shop is complicated on an individual level, and impossible on a macro level. Shopping contributes a whopping 68% to the U.S. economy.
So what is a girl to do? The obvious answer: kick the habit. Certainly, our planet is worth more than another t-shirt that reads “p l a n t l o v e r,” right? Minimalism encourages questions from, “Do I really need another pair of yoga pants, even though they are 50% off?” to “What items can I eliminate from my home to create a healthier, cleaner space to live in?” In every respect, taking a minimalistic approach to life has huge benefits.
But what happens to our beloved designers who bring joy to the world through the clothes they create? How can we, as a people, encourage a positive shift in products and services being offered, without dismantling a major contributor to our economy?
Enter: upcycled fashion. A concept that is quickly emerging from behind the vintage, sustainably sourced, cruelty-free curtain. Heightened awareness of the ecological climate has sparked consumer’s needs to feel good about what they are buying. This in turn is driving big brands to change how they are creating their products. These well-known (and loved) brands are now bringing awareness to the importance of recycling and waste reduction through changing their sourcing, factory standards, materials used and recycling policies. Here are 5 unique brands from high fashion to casual gear that are blazing the trail for upcycled fashion.
Stella McCartney is the go-to name in eco-friendly high fashion. At the unveiling of her Fall 2019 collection at Paris Fashion Week earlier this year, she featured upcycled clothes, shoes and accessories. Secondhand t-shirts were torn into strips and reassembled into dresses. Accessories from paperclip earrings to rubber band necklaces and woven belts—bright, intriguing pieces designed in collaboration with master textile artist Sheila Hicks—accentuated the upcycling theme.
It’s been 6 years that H&M launched its textile recycling initiative. Customers are encouraged to donate clothes in designated bins that can be found at all store locations, in an effort to cut back on what’s sent to the landfill. Their policy is that 0% of what is donated in store will become waste. Instead, clothes are reworn, reused or recycled. Items that are unwearable are sent to make new pieces in “remake” fashion collections, or to become other useful items, like cloths used in store.
Patagonia is a chart topper when it comes to companies who upcycle. They began their Common Threads Recycling Program in 2005. Today, not only do they encourage the recycling of their products by actually paying you for your donations, but they also offer repairs so that you can keep your gear longer and not have to buy new. Talk about a company that gives back! Patagonia gear that is no longer wearable is reworked into new pieces or is sold to other companies for their own upcycling initiatives.
There is so much good going on in this simple, straightforward company. All of Sunski’s sunglasses are made from 100% recycled plastic. None of their packaging contains plastic either. With a great style and fit, their sunglasses come with a lifetime warranty. Sunski’s upstanding approach in creating a sustainable product is getting a lot of attention. It makes us all wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
RubyMoon has an incredible upcycling journey, repurposing harmful materials that have been removed from the ocean. RubyMoon collaborates with Healthyseas.org, a company that collects discarded fishing nets (along with other waste materials) from the ocean, and reworks the material into yarn to create their swim and activewear. Orders are then mailed to customers in 100% recycled and biodegradable bags. This, plus their outstanding swim and activewear pieces make RubyMoon an all-around beautiful company.
A change is happening. Out of the piles of waste emerges a new hope for sustainability in the fashion industry. It is something that makes consumers feel good about what they are buying, if they choose to make a purchase. Adopting a minimalistic lifestyle is also an important part of helping our planet, but by choosing to buy from sustainable companies, we are casting our vote in the election for change.
Photo: Respective companies; Foter.com