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The Future Of Fashion Is Trash

by: Rosie Dalton | 7 months ago | News

Image: Liu Wen and Guinevere Van Seenus photographed at a recycling facility for Vogue, wearing upcycled clothing. Image source.

Waste is a huge issue in the fashion industry. Which is why lots of brands have recently begun focussing on how they can upcycle waste to make new clothing fabrics, rather than always producing virgin fibres.

“An estimated 50 million tons of clothing is discarded every year, and most of it will not biodegrade in a landfill,” Emily Farra writes for Vogue. “The amount of time, energy, and resources that go into those trashed items is usually disproportionate to their quick turnaround; a single cotton T-shirt may require up to 700 gallons of water and may travel across several countries during production.” 

With this in mind, many industry insiders have declared the future of fashion will actually be in recycling waste and repurposing it into new clothes. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s A New Textiles Economy, fashion must phase out nonrenewable resources and move toward renewable, regenerative inputs. This includes recycled nylons and polyesters, pre-consumer recycled cotton and bio-materials like Charlotte McCurdy’s algae-based bio-plastic.  

“I actually think it’s one of the greatest design challenges of our century – how we take things from one form to another, with no loss of value,” says Stacy Flynn, CEO of textiles innovations company Evrnu. “Consumers throw away about 80% of their textiles directly in the garbage. We knew if there was a way to take that waste, break it down into a polymer, and build it back up to a new fibre, that would be the lynchpin of reducing our industry’s impact.”

Young designers like Matthew Needham are at the forefront of this minimal waste movement. After interning in Paris, the Central Saint Martins student realised that tons of unused fabric are housed in storage facilities, samples are cancelled at the last minute and ill-thought-out design decisions result in colossal waste. Which is why he created an acclaimed BA collection out of environmental waste, including roofing asphalt, fly-tipped rubbish and upcycled Chanel tweed. 

This is the kind of innovation we hope to see more of, as we enter a brave new decade in fashion. The alternative is simply more trash than the planet can take.

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