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Fashion's New Cycle

Fashion’s New Cycle

A dinosaur compared to most consumer-facing industries, fashion is ripe for disruptive overhaul at every step from raw materials to manufacturing, retail and closing the loop on waste.

The average urban adult throws away 32 kilograms of unwanted clothing each year, adding millions of tons to already taxed landfill. Not only are the immense resources invested in garments now squandered, the garments themselves generate methane gas and other noxious by-products.

The average urban adult throws away 32kg of unwanted clothing each year

“Our textile waste must become our new raw inputs”

Garment landfill

It’s safe to say no one needs any more clothes. So what’s a USD3 trillion industry to do?

Our textile waste must become our new raw inputs.

China in particular has an enormous opportunity to turn fashion into a circular economy and continue their domination of the textile landscape by recycling fiber content from factory scraps and post-consumer use garments.

Experts are closing in on the technology necessary to separate blended fibres and unlock the value in our textile waste. With producers eventually responsible for the end of life phase of their products, designers will be incentivized to build recycling into their creations.

Experts are closing in on the technology necessary to separate blended fibres and unlock the value in our textile waste

Bottle to fabric

In 2010, Itee Soni and I founded FINCH Designs on the challenge of building a sustainable fashion company. From our studio in Shanghai, we unpacked our supply chain from start to finish and found ways to lower our environmental impact. With over 25 years experience in the fashion industry, we saw firsthand the waste generated by our decisions and the enormous control designers have over the environmental impact of the products we create. To use this power wisely and design garments that resonate with our clients became our mission.

We chose swimwear as a category we could execute sustainably by using recycled PET in lieu of virgin poly or nylon. With 50 billion plastic bottles thrown away in the USA alone last year, there is no shortage of raw PET input. At an average of 15 bottles per swimsuit, that’s a lot of swimsuits coming out of landfill!

“We chose swimwear as a category we could execute sustainably by using recycled PET in lieu of virgin poly or nylon”

 

“At an average of 15 bottles per swimsuit, that’s a lot of swimsuits coming out of landfill!”

50 bn plastic bottles

A significant player in our supply chain is Unifi Manufacturing, Inc., the company that transforms recycled plastic bottles into a fibre called REPREVE. REPREVE is traceable through Unifi’s proprietary verification program, which allows a third party to analyse our fabrics and confirm the level of recycled content. As virgin poly and rPET are identical on a molecular level, this unique tracer agent gives us confidence in delivering a certified recycled product.

A Few Facts About rPET

  • Recycling 1 ton of rPET containers saves 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space
  • Every pound of rPET used, reduces energy use by 84% and greenhouse gases by 71%
  • When you recycle 1 plastic bottle you save 6 hours of energy from a 60 watt light bulb
  • 90% less water is used in making recycled polyester versus virgin polyester
  • 70 billion plastic bottles go to the landfills annually, around the world
  • Plastic bottles in U.S. landfills could wrap around the earth 5 times
  • It takes over 500 years for plastic bottles in landfills to decompose
  • Less than 32% of plastic bottles in the U.S. are actually recycled

 

90% less water is used in making recycled polyester versus virgin polyester

Repreve 1

FINCH Designs is the first-ever China-based brand to receive the Project JUST Seal of Approval

Today, we are operating at our industry’s lowest possible impact settings from fibre to finished product in the swimwear category. We’re a new recipient of the Project JUST Seal of Approval, which is based upon our company’s commitment to transparency and building a sustainable supply chain. FINCH Designs is the first-ever China-based brand to receive the distinction, and one of only three brands to win the Seal of Approval in the swimwear category out of more than 115 global nominations.

Most significantly, we’re working toward our goal of a circular, closed-loop supply chain by 2020. Our textile waste must become our new raw inputs – but still we must reduce our consumption.

Understanding the impact of fashion and rampant consumerism is a new concept to the flush younger generation in China. One of our biggest initiatives alongside addressing our supply chain is to educate consumers about the impact of fashion on our existing resources and encourage a reduction in consumption.

We’ve learned how much control designers have over a product’s environmental impact. Now it’s consumers’ turn to slow down the fashion cycle, buy for the long term, and BUY LESS.

“Now it’s consumers’ turn to slow down the fashion cycle, buy for the long term, and BUY LESS”

End


Further Reading

  • The Status Of Fashion’s Redesign - Fashion, an industry not often associated with climate change & technological innovation has been redesigning itself to change just that. With growing global focus on the environment China Water Risk’s Dawn McGregor takes a look at the status of this redesign
  • Circular Economy: From Theory To Action - As we move outside the ‘safe operating space of our planetary boundaries’, Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Nick Jeffries explores what is a circular economy & implications for water
  • A Decade Of Dedication - As Redress turns 10 years old, its founder Dr Christina Dean reflects on the victories achieved in driving circular thinking in fashion including the EcoChic Design Award and TV show Frontline Fashion. Plus, check out their initiatives going forward
  • 85 Voices: Insights From Chinese Textile Manufacturers - Hear from China’s textile manufacturers on their challenges and what help they need to transition to a clean and circular model. This is an opportunity for the global fashion industry. China Water Risk’s Dawn McGregor shares key takeaways from our new survey report
  • Toward Better Industrial Water Management - The HSBC Water Programme for Industrial Water Management is now complete. We sat down again with Hong Kong Productivity Council’s Dr Anthony Ma to get key takeaways from the programme and find out what textile factories in China can do to reduce their water exposure
  • Fast Fashion: Sucking Aquifers Dry? - Groundwater is over-extracted to grow cotton. As the world’s largest importer of cotton, is it China’s fault? Or is fast fashion to blame? China Water Risk’s Tan explores trends in the growth across major brands, China’s imports & global cotton production
  • Fashion to Solve China’s Plastic Problem - With most PET made for fibres and not bottles, fashion is a big contributor to the plastic problem but it can also be part of the solution as Sondra Kim from Waste2Wear tells us. The company turns plastic waste into sustainable & high quality clothes
  • Circular Fashion Today - Closing the loop in the fashion is not new. But perhaps now that China,  the world’s largest manufacturer of garments, wants to go circular, it might become a reality. Get on top of the latest trends with leading circular fashion innovators
  • 1 Year On: Where Are The Top Fashion Brands? - It’s one year on but have brands upped their sustainability actions? We take a closer look at who’s not going circular and who’s leading the pack with more initiatives and engagement with NGOs
  • Future Fashion & ‘Beautiful China’ – Together Forever? - With fast changing regulatory landscape moving against pollution from the textile industry, is there really room for fast fashion in a ‘Beautiful China’? China Water Risk’s McGregor on why it’s time for fashion to become beautiful inside and out
Heather Kaye

About Heather Kaye

Heather Kaye relocated to Shanghai with Liz Claiborne (now Kate Spade) in 2006. With an extensive background in textile sourcing and production, garment manufacturing and quality control, Heather’s 11-plus years in China have complemented her earlier womenswear design experience. Heather is an honors graduate of Harvard University (AB’96) and Parsons School of Design (AAS Fashion Design ‘99).

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