A big focus for me at the moment is sustainability in the fashion world since launching the Sustainable Fashion collaboratory project. I’ve been keen to understand what industry leaders and big brands have been implementing for the future of fashion.
For the purposes of this blog post (and keeping it as short and sweet as possible) I’m keen to highlight just one positive step I witnessed recently that gets us closer to a more sustainable fashion industry: the garment take-back scheme at global fashion giant H&M.
At its simplest, the scheme sees a clothing bin in every store that customers can drop their unwanted garments in for recycling and reuse. Best described in this short (and pretty cool) clip.
H&M, originally from Sweden, claim to be “the first fashion company to launch a global garment collection initiative”. They have some incredible goals to ‘close the loop’ in the fashion industry.
So, given that H&M aren’t (yet) in New Zealand I took the opportunity while traveling in Japan recently to check out one of their Tokyo stores. There I found a collection bin, pamphlets and signage encouraging people to take part in the scheme.
H&M are making considerable leaps and bounds in this space, like committing to 100% sustainably sourced cotton and zero toxic chemicals used in the making of their clothes by 2020.
I’m sure much of what you pick up off the rack in H&M presently could be termed ‘unsustainable’ and perhaps not 100% ethical either. This assumption seemed to be confirmed when I found one garment in the store (albeit it a smaller, one level store) that had a tag proudly displayed saying “The Conscious Choice.” Garments labelled in this way denote items from their ‘Conscious Collections’. They want to be transparent for the conscious consumer. Something I wholly endorse as someone that tries to buy sustainably and struggles to identify it whilst in any store!
While 99% of the garments in store didn’t carry this label it’s worth acknowledging the system changes H&M are putting in place behind the scenes that quite simply take time and money.
H&M are by no means the only retailer undertaking this kind of scheme. I also noticed Japanese brands Muji and Uniqlo were advertising similar strategies in store.
I’m yet to find a New Zealand retailer that offers a similar scheme (if you know of one I’d love to hear about it) – but then again we do have clothing bins scattered amongst the suburbs in most towns and cities nationwide. Most clothing bins, unless otherwise stated are managed by SaveMart. SaveMart collect and sort, price and sell the material that gets donated. They aim to sell items that hit the racks within four weeks. The items that don’t get sold are then shipped to Papua New Guinea to be given freely to communities in need (which is a whole other blog post). The clothing that isn’t high enough quality to go on the racks gets made into rags, blankets or insulation – generally overseas.
SaveMart does support charities such as the Child Cancer Foundation. By 2016 they expect to have contributed $3.2 million dollars towards the Child Cancer Foundation through our clothing bin donations. That’s pretty impressive!
Of course clothing bins aren’t our only options to part with our clothing (should we really need to). There are plenty of great Op Shops, Secondhand or Vintage clothing stores that are doing their bit for sustainable fashion. There are plenty of great local organisations that will repair, mend, take-in or alter your garments if need be.
If you’re interested in further insights into sustainable fashion check out my dedicated Sustainable Fashion Facebook Page and click like to receive semi-regular updates.