Make a Greener Fashion Statement with Your Wardrobe

Organizations making a statement and what you can do to help.

by Sarah Forman | Tue, August 08, 2017

Though we may be avid recyclers, composters and Mobike enthusiasts, one decision in particular – what we wear – has a surprisingly heavy impact on the environment. So, what are organisations doing to help? In Shanghai alone there are several people who have made a name for themselves pushing the concept of upcycling and living into it.

Joyce Wang Fashion

Designer Joyce Wang’s brand revolves around sustainability, with one of her two fashion lines consisting solely of upcycled clothing. Each piece is one of a kind and all of the materials come from used garments and factory waste, including old stock and fabric swatches:

“I started to do sustainable fashion when I was working for a denim company in Beijing ... All of the fabric swatches, cut sample garments, handloops [handbag straps], they’re no longer used after two or three seasons . . . but I could see that they had more life in them ... I want to reduce waste to the least amount that I can, so I do 70 to 80 percent of the designs, see what I have left and then finish designing the collection.

states Wang of how she became involved. To maximize her impact, Wang makes most of her pieces to order, and her upcoming collection will be size-adjustable, creating clothing that changes with you, without sacrificing quality or your confidence.

Waste2Wear

Shanghai based Waste2Wear recycles plastic bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the same raw material as polyester. After cleaning and turning into pellets, they transform post-consumer bottles into school and corporate uniforms, as well as high-end textiles used by brands all over the world.

“Shanghai is actually quite amazing in that they have a very strong, organized, informal recycling system,”

says Eduardo Garza, Creative Director for Waste2Wear, elaborating on the unseen efforts going on in the city. Trash and plastic waste piled up on the sidewalk is almost instantaneously collected and sorted by individuals in the community. Garza and his team believe that China is an important player in the global movement towards greener fashion, and companies like Waste2Wear are working to push that forward, at home and abroad.

BYT

Hong Kong-based BYT, a social-impact clothing brand that upcycles fashion waste, has begun its push into the Mainland and will be collaborating with Shanghai’s Lane Crawford this fall. Co-founder Christina Dean believes that part of the change needs to come from how consumers feel about their clothing. Dean adds,

“As consumers re-learn how to love their clothes, new business models will emerge; fashion rentals, libraries, repair and vintage shops being some examples of the circular economy – one in which resources are re-used in a circular way instead of the old ‘make, use, dispose’ linear economy. It’s perfectly possible for fashion to be a force for good. Fashion has always been creative and it has always pushed the boundaries, and now is the time we need to see this.”

What can we do?

While upcycling is a great and creative way to give new life to overlooked objects, the most considerable thing we can do to combat waste is change our shopping habits. Educate yourself on the initiatives big organizations are taking, and whether or not they’re using recycled materials in their products. “Look at the labels,” Garza urges, and take the time to learn more about the differences in manufacturing materials like cotton and polyester. I:CO, a German textile recycling company, partners with brands like Adidas, The North Face and Levis to minimize the amount of waste produced by their manufacturing. Learn about where materials come from, as “transparency and understanding the process is its own kind of sustainability,” encouraged Wang. Dean agrees by stressing the importance of transparency in supply chains, and understanding not just what your clothes are made of, but how they’re made. Recycle responsibly by asking questions of non-profits and engage your friends and family to do so as well.

Finally, the most important thing we can do is shop less. Invest in your clothing, take care of it, buy fewer pieces and make them count.

What we wear is important to our sense of identity and our self-esteem. When discussing the quality of the clothing Lim distributed in Qinghai, he speaks of the role he hoped it would play and why the project meant so much to him:

“The clothing that we send to these kids is meant to give them something more than just keeping them warm and covering them. [They’re meant to] elevate their spirits to the point where they understand why they are there.”

If we can learn to take better care of our clothes and be more intentional about how we express ourselves through fashion, then we’ll be on the right path to taking better care of each other, our families and our planet.