One Man’s Trash, Another’s Treasure
Would it surprise you to learn that the very clothes on your back could be contributing to the demise of the world that we live in?
It’s scary to think how little we actually know about what we buy and consume on a daily basis.
On one hand, we are remarkably privileged. Only a little more than 200 years ago, our forefathers made their clothes by hand. New clothes were incredibly expensive to come by. Everyone knew how to sew, and clothes were routinely patched in the inevitable event of wear and tear.
The Industrial Revolution made all that a distant dream. When clothing manufacture became an industry, it became possible to buy more clothes, at cheaper prices. It became more cost effective to churn out clothes made of cheaper materials, poorer construction and greater volume, because when people’s clothes wore out or tore, they would buy new ones. It made for better margins. It makes good business sense.
Yet, the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. Our closets are stuffed with clothes that we wear once and forget. And we don’t realize that these clothes cost precious resources to make. The amount of natural resources used in extraction, farming, harvesting, processing, manufacturing and shipping clothing is staggering; for example, it can take up to 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just a T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Pesticides and toxic
And we wear them once, and throw them away when they stretch out after being washed in a washing machine. Or we simply get bored after the clothes are no longer new. Our landfills are overflowing with our excess.
That’s why it’s so good to see when brands are proactive about reducing their impact on the world. Upcycling is a trend that has become more mainstream since the early 2000s and involves being creative with waste, turning all kinds of trash into fashion.
Adidas teamed up with Parley for the Oceans to create a revolutionary shoe. Almost completely made from 11 million discarded plastic bottles (that would have ended up in our oceans), they have sold one million pairs already. They have also extended their ocean plastics line to include swimsuits. While half of all adidas swimwear is made from recycled material, the ocean plastics swimwear line is made completely from used fishing nets and debris in coastal areas.
Patagonia is known to be the founding fathers of ethical fashion, using recycled plastic bottles to make their garments since way back in 1993! The recycled plastic is used to create fleece, shorts and jackets and they have a recycling scheme where they take in clothes that cannot be repaired to be recycled and reused. This saves clothing from ending up in the landfill and extends the lifetime of fabric thereby saving precious natural resources.
ASOS is a big brand that is more famous for fast, affordable fashion. Yet they are also taking steps to being more sustainable. For their ASOS Reclaimed line, they scour the globe for authentic vintage clothing, reworking and updating them into affordable modern designs for the 21st century man and woman.
While Ecoalf is a Spanish brand that is famous for their Upcycling the Oceans project, where they recover, recycle and revalue ocean waste in the Mediterranean and in Thailand. They also create beautiful clothes from recycled cotton, recycled nylon, recycled wool and even recycled used tyres!
And the Biji-biji Initiative right here in Kuala Lumpur creates fashionable handbags that stand the test of time from materials as diverse as seatbelts (as durable as leather and more unique!), advertising banners and discarded felt from corporate events and occasions.
Unlike the traditional linear economic model based on a ‘take-make-consume-throw away’ pattern, a circular economy is based on sharing, leasing, reuse, repair, refurbishment and recycling, in an (almost) closed loop, where products and the materials they contain are highly valued.
A traditional linear economic model based on a take-make-consume-throw away pattern is in the long run, unsustainable. As we all become more conscious of the impact we have on the world, we should all realize that a circular economy based on sharing, leasing, reuse, repair, refurbishment and recycling gives us and our planet the best possible chance of survival.
Is your brand upcycling?
How would your brand participate in the golden age of the geek?
Don’t want to miss out on the weekly shots of branding? Subscribe to our e-newsletter.