Let’s be honest – 2018 had some heartbreaking headlines regarding fashion and the environment. (We’re looking at you, Burberry.) There were several promising innovations, however, that are already shaping sustainable fashion in 2019. Here’s a look at three major trends for eco-friendly apparel for this year and beyond.
Outdoor apparel and accessories retailer United by Blue has introduced a proprietary outerwear insulation called B100. It contains North American bison fiber – a commonly discarded byproduct of the ranching industry - and a recycled polyester blend.
According to the press release announcing B100: “The bison’s shaggy coat consists of a layer of hollow, compactable, resilient hairs that allow them to keep warm and dry in the harshest winter climates…. United By Blue has spent the past five years creating a supply chain to intercept and harness the power of this natural fiber and diverting it from a landfill.”
In addition, The North Face recently announced the launch of its ThermoBall Eco jacket line. The round synthetic fiber clusters (made of recycled plastic bottles and recycled polyester fabric) trap heat within small air pockets, similar to traditional down insulation.
This is not the first time The North Face has turned to recycled products to make its clothing. Its signature Denali jacket featured recycled fibers as early as 1996. And earlier in 2018, the company launched its Bottle Source collection, which recycled 160,000 pounds of plastic bottles from waste streams at U.S. National Parks.
Looking ahead: In November 2018, insulation manufacturer PrimaLoft announced PrimaLoft Bio, the first synthetic insulation made from materials that are completely recycled and almost entirely biodegradable. Winter jackets featuring this insulation should be available in late 2020.
“In the current sharing economy, we are getting used to renting, not owning, things such as transportation or housing. This carries out to our wardrobe, as well. It makes sense for people who care about the quality and sustainability of their fashion.”
Currently, the biggest player in the fashion rental market is Rent the Runway, the 10-year-old privately held company currently valued around $800 million. Through Rent the Runway's website and smartphone app, customers can select clothing, handbags and accessories to rent and return. The items are all owned, shipped, stored, repaired and cleaned by Rent the Runway.
Tulerie, a peer-to-peer fashion rental app started in 2018, allows users to rent items from their own closets to one another, rather than from a fixed company inventory. The company’s sustainability page explains how fashion rental services can make a big environmental impact:
“The average garment should be worn at a minimum 30 times, even though most can withstand 200 wears…. How do we fulfill our adoration for the fashion industry and stand behind the necessary eco-conscious movement? Closet sharing.”
Looking ahead: Many conventional retailers are making moves to enter the fashion rental market. Fashion rental service Gwynnie Bee now offers retailers a package including the digital technology, cleaning and storage services needed to start and run a clothing-rental program. Ann Taylor and NY&Co. were two of the first to participate in this program (known as CaaStle), with more companies expected to join over the next few years.
For example, I was excited to see a tag on my son’s new sweatpants from Target stating that they were made from recycled plastic water bottles. Sustainable options at that price point were unheard of a few years ago.
“There’s less of a price difference between sustainable and less sustainable options today thanks to consumer demand and technology,” explained Childs. “Ten years ago, if you surveyed customers and asked if they cared about sustainability, they’d say yes, but they wouldn’t change their purchasing activity because of it. Now, they are changing how they buy, and the prices reflect that.”
Image credit: Pexels/Roman Pohorecki