We stuff our large closets with cheap, synthetic clothes that don’t biodegrade. These clothes are sewn by garment workers laboring in often unsafe conditions for poor pay in developing countries. If you missed BlueTube’s last post on why our appetite for new clothes is bad for the environment and for garment workers, read it here. This post highlights companies and trends that keep the fun in fashion without sacrificing sustainability.
Fast Fashion is blamed for many of the industries problems. Companies churn out the latest fashions fast, compressing the time it takes styles to move from the runway to garment factories, onto store racks and into your closet. Because these clothes are inexpensive and super trendy, consumers update their wardrobe constantly. One company, H&M, is working hard to make fast fashion less wasteful. H&M encourages customers to recycle clothes. Bring in a bag of unwanted textiles, any brand, holes, stains, single socks are ok, and get 15% off your next purchase. Items in good condition enter the used clothing market. Other items live on as rags or are shredded for insulation. H&M uses recycled fibers in some of their clothes.
A new mindset is developing among fashionistas. They want access to clothes, but don’t want to own them, at least not for long. They don’t mind if their clothes spend time on other people’s bodies first either. The “ick” factor, which used to be associated with wearing used clothes, is evaporating as shoppers demand sustainability and low cost. When people buy new, many look for good quality clothes that can be easily resold. We share cars (Uber and Lyft), homes (Airbnb), and now we share clothes. Companies and savvy individuals are growing the clothes-sharing business.
Recent college graduate and former BlueTube intern, Sierra Harnett, has a great eye for fashion. She makes extra money buying stylish, well-made clothes at thrift stores and selling them on her Instagram boutique, @shopmns_. Sierra explains that it’s less expensive and more sustainable for consumers to shop this way. “I like to show people that they can find stylish pieces secondhand without contributing to the wasteful fast fashion industry.”
Rent the Runway was started in 2009 by Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, two classmates at Harvard Business School. They describe their company as a “closet in the cloud.” Customers can rent a dress for a special occasion or rent an entire wardrobe. One hundred sixty dollars per month lets customers swap out anything in their rented wardrobe, anytime, with hundreds of thousands of items to choose from.
Poshmark is a peer-to-peer clothes sharing site where people buy and sell fashion. “Seller stylists” upload the Poshmark app, photograph their clothes and accessories and display them in their online closet. Buyers peruse the website for favorite styles, brands and sizes. Purchased items arrive in the mail two days later.
Thredup started up in 2009 as a men’s shirt swapping business when co-founder, James Reinhart wanted to get rid of a closet full of clothes he didn’t wear anymore. Today it’s the largest online consignment and thrift store. Sorry guys, Thredup now carries only women’s and children’s fashions. Customers sell as well as buy on Thredup. The company sends out “cleanup” bags to mail good quality clothing you no longer want. Your unwanted clothes are inspected, photographed and listed on the site. You get money, and someone else gets to wear your old favorites, for awhile.
Second-hand shoppers are multiplying, reports Thredup. Forty-four million women bought second-hand in 2017. One year later fifty-six million shopped for used clothes. Women want to be seen in new styles. Because sustainability is now a priority and clothing is one of the most polluting industries, it makes sense to buy secondhand.
Traditional retailers are joining the second hand market too. Arc’teryx, an outdoor clothing brand, just launched a used gear program. They will buy back their used gear, clean it, repair it and sell it. Their motto is “keep gear in play, in the wild, and out of storage, basements or landfills.
With BlueTube, we keep plastic waste out of the ocean, and sustainable fashion helps. Want to do more? Grab a used plastic bag from the BlueTube at your beach, fill it with trash and throw it away. If your beach doesn’t have a BlueTube yet, buy one here.