The fashion industry is notoriously dirty. In fact, it’s so filthy that it’s widely accepted as being one of most polluting industries in the world. Fashion production makes up 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions. It also consumes massive amounts of water, leaving polluted rivers and streams. And when it’s all said and done, consumers treat the end products as disposable. Fast Fashion, the rapid design, manufacturing and marketing strategy that swept the industry in the early 90s as they looked for ways to sell us more stuff, faster. Prior to fast fashion, the fashion calendar generally had 4 seasons per year. Now, it’s more like 52, and that’s a huge reason why 17 million tons of textile waste ends up in landfills each year (source: Environmental Protection Agency).
Photograph: Mohammed Anwarul Kabir Choudhury/Alamy
Luckily, key stakeholders in the fashion industry are starting to pay attention to the harmful environmental impact. Driven by pressure from a changing consumer culture that values sustainability, they’re launching eco-friendly initiatives and setting goals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by set dates. They’re also placing strategic bets on the growing secondhand economy, which is expected to generate more revenue than fast fashion by 2029, and embracing their products’ circularity.
This is a giant leap forward from the past, when brands were hesitant to take back used items for resale. Now, we’re seeing more and more widely recognizable names launched initiatives to do exactly that.
Nike, which aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 75% by 2025, recently launched an initiative coined “Nike Refurbished” to help reach that goal. The program accepts lightly worn or defective shoes, refurbishes them and resells them at a reduced price in select stores. The program is currently offered in 8 stores. The brand plans to expand to 15 by the end of April and add several more by year’s end.
Popular athletic brand Lululemon announced that, in May, it will begin piloting a service in California and Texas that will allow people to bring back their gently-worn apparel from the brand in exchange for gift cards. The items will then be sold at a discount through the retailer’s channels.
Kering, one of the largest luxury groups in the world (they own Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta, to name a few), has increased their own stake in the resale market, establishing partnerships and making investments in leading resale marketplaces. In January Kering’s parent company, Groupe Artemis, invested an undisclosed amount in the sneaker resale platform GOAT, then in March, Kering led a $216 million funding round for French luxury resale site, Vestiaire Collective. Kering’s most lucrative brand, Gucci, started working directly with The Real Real in October, when the two companies jointly launched an exclusive, curated selection of the brand’s products on the platform. These moves are a positive signal of the ongoing growth and prosperity of the luxury resale economy. At the same time, they should also enhance the customer experience when shopping resale.
In an effort to reduce waste and promote systemic change, some brands are looking to the model of sourcing recycled textiles for their product lines first embraced by Patagonia.In 2019, Prada debuted its “Re-nylon” collection, featuring items made using Econyl nylon yarn created from ocean plastic and fishing nets instead of producing new synthetic fibers, which was the tradition for the nylon lines. Another brand, Eileen Fisher, released their “Horizon 2030 Vision,” vowing to use naturally sourced fibers “that make the land more resilient and increase biodiversity, helping regenerate their ecosystems,” while simultaneously increasing the use of recycled fibers.
At Entrupy, sustainability is part of everything we do. Of course, our entire business is supporting a healthy circular fashion economy, as we enable businesses and consumers to safely buy and resell pre-owned items. We also use only green packaging made from 100% recyclable material including foam that is biodegradable. When it comes to plastic, we haven’t purchased any since 2018, because we reuse that which comes to us in packages that we receive.
A word on the negative environmental impact of counterfeits –
Since counterfeit goods are manufactured in unregulated environments, they are often made from toxic materials in heavily polluting manufacturing processes. Compounding the counterfeit problem is the disposal question. Governments struggle with what to do with seized goods and often the unfortunate consequence for lawful disposal is the incineration of the fakes, creating an even more destructive product life cycle.
Through our industry partnerships we are able to access samples ofaccept counterfeit goods and then often donate these goods to learning institutions such as the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).