The fashion industry is trapped in a broken cycle because trends come and go at breakneck speed, creating stress and waste for brands, people, and natural resources. Fashion is such an important part of our lives (naturally!), but sadly, it’s also a significant contributor to the climate crisis, because of this, we must build a smarter fashion industry.
The carbon footprint of the fashion industry was 4% of the global total in 2018 (McKinsey & Company and Global Fashion Agenda). This equals the combined annual footprint of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. It is predicted that over the next decade, beyond measures already in place, the industry’s carbon dioxide emissions will likely rise to an annual volume growth rate of 2.7% (McKinsey & Company and Global Fashion Agenda).
At Otrium, our philosophy is that a fashion item that’s produced as a creative passion for humans, using materials extracted from earth, shouldn't collect dust in a warehouse or end up in landfill.
We’d love to see a future where every clothing item produced is worn, and we’re working with hundreds of brand partners to achieve this.. Through our brand partnerships, we aim to reduce the overall amount of waste in the industry and follow a more circular approach.
Since the industrial revolution, the fashion industry has been dominated by a one-way, linear model of production and consumption, raw materials are collected, transformed into short lived products, and then thrown away. Currently, approximately one in every ten items of clothing produced, or more than $200 billion worth, stay unsold, sitting in warehouses. Fashion and the freedom of self expression that clothing offers us, is not to be wasted. We’re here to change the status quo.
We believe that fashion’s linear ‘take-make-waste’ model can be transformed into a circular approach that is restorative and regenerative by design. To help diminish the take-make-waste pattern, we are attempting to close the loop. As an industry with inherent waste, one of which has such a large impact on people and the environment, we want to make it our responsibility to start by closing the loop. It’s time to design out waste:
Circularity or the circular economy is a system of closed loops in which raw materials, components and products loose as little value as possible renewable energy sources are used, and systems thinking is used.
Much like the circle shape, the garments and products are put back into the cycle of the industry, rather than ending up in landfill sites or disregarded as waste. This is a purpose we care about at Otrium.
Today, consumers care more about what they buy and how it will impact people and the environment. Our own research found that ⅓ of our customers are ‘Sustainable Shoppers’. When shopping at Otrium, these shoppers can be reassured that we are working towards a more circular future for fashion.
Otrium continually works towards the mission that all clothing should be worn. We do this by helping to eliminate unsold inventory and using technology and data to change the way clothing is created and sold. On our journey towards a smarter,more sustainable fashion industry, we’ve teamed up with Good On You, the leading source of fashion sustainability ratings. We’ve used their know-how to highlight brands on our own platform that go the extra mile to be more sustainable, which helps our customers make more informed shopping choices. Using Good On You’s data, we’ve introduced the Otrium Conscious filter. And now we’re speaking to conscious-rated brands carried by Otrium to find out more about their approach towards sustainability. This week, we chatted to Eric Otten, CEO of cashmere brand So Good To Wear, who believes that ethical fashion should be the rule instead of the exception. So what does sustainability mean to you? “People have always thought we could take something inexhaustible from our earth, to drive mass consumption and economic growth. Unfortunately, the reality is the opposite. Sustainability means that we have to give back more to the earth than we take” Tell us more about your brand. “Cashmere without compromises sums it up. We redesign the production process of cashmere with new and restored values. It’s a more conscious and personal process.” What’s your role… and how did you get there? “As CEO of the company, I have to be a farmer for our Nepalese business and at the same time a fashion specialist for our western business. I bring those two worlds together, always with consideration of our vision and goals.” What’s your career background and when did you start working on creating a positive impact? “I have been in the fashion business for almost my whole career. I worked for private label brands and premium brands like Wolford. After five years, I truly realised there are no limitations for the welfare of our planet and so I joined the sustainable and fair trade brand MYoMY. From there, I moved to So Good To Wear.” What achievement are you most proud of? “Putting the whole chain theory in practice! From our own cashmere goats to our spinnery, natural dying atelier and production in Nepal to our “slow fashion” models in the retail industry. The whole chain is fairtrade, animal friendly and committed to rebuilding the economy in Nepal.”What are you working on at the moment? “We are expanding our retail network internationally and expanding our own cashmere goat herd in Nepal.”What is the biggest challenge on your roadmap of improvements? “The coordination between high demands in the western world and the limitations of the relatively primitive possibilities in Nepal. Some things take more time to realise in Nepal – time we sometimes don’t have.”What’s the best feedback you’ve ever received from customers? “I have never worn a more comfortable piece of clothing than my So Good To Wear sweater – it’s physical and emotional.”What do customers value most about the brand and products? “It’s high “slow” fashion without compromises, made from the finest quality cashmere, fully fairtrade, sustainable and animal friendly”Who inspires you and why? “Stella McCartney – it became a movement of a luxury fashion brand built on sustainability.” What’s the most important aspect you keep in mind when shopping for sustainable fashion? “I ask: is the brand really concerned about sustainability or is it a form of “greenwashing”?”Do you have a quote you live by? “Without action, we only have words.” What’s a quick change that people could make in terms of being more sustainable? “Actually, that is very easy! Start changing small and easy things in your life because it all helps: take your bike, not your car, don’t let the water run when you brush your teeth, don’t throw away food, put the light out in rooms you're not in, wash only a full machine and use biological soap, throw waste in a bin, not on the street, don’t eat meat every day and many more things that make more difference than you think, in your head and for nature.”
If you’re familiar with Otrium, you’ll know by now that we believe all clothing should be worn. We’re on a mission to eliminate unsold inventory and change the way clothing is created and sold. And on our journey towards a smarter fashion industry, we’ve teamed up with Good On You – the leading source for fashion brand sustainability ratings. Using their expert know-how, Otrium can highlight brands that are more sustainable. We label these brands as Sustainable, which allows our customers to make more informed choices when they shop. To celebrate our Good On You collaboration, we’ve been chatting to Sustainable-rated brands on our platform. Today is also Earth Day, so what better time to speak to a global name like adidas to find out their take on sustainability and more? Here’s what adidas is doing to pioneer changes for the better.Sustainability: what does it mean to adidas?
Sustainability is part of our core belief: through sport we have the power to change lives. Sustainability, for us, is an ongoing process. We have always been involved in it and we have always worked on this topic, through the BCI Cotton Initiative, Work Labour Agreement and more. We want to provide the best sports gear using the best sustainable option available.Tell us more about adidas…
The adidas brand has a long history and deep-rooted connection with sport. Its broad and diverse portfolio in both the Sport Performance and Sport Inspired categories ranges from major global sports to regional grassroot events plus local sneaker culture. This has enabled adidas to transcend cultures and become one of the most recognized, credible and iconic brands both on and off the field of play.We believe that through sports we have the power to change lives. We will always strive to expand the limits of human possibilities, to include and unite people in sport, and to create a more sustainable world. Where did the brand’s sustainable journey begin?
Our sustainability journey began in the 1990s, becoming a member of the Fair Labor Association – an organization that helps to improve the lives of millions of workers around the world. In 2000, all our products became PVC-free and we created the first 100% recyclable performance shoe in 2019. See the timeline below for our other milestones in becoming more sustainable:What achievement are you most proud of?
Back in 2015, adidas was the first brand to create a shoe made of ocean plastic with Parley (an organization that addresses major threats towards the ocean and works with collaborators to raise awareness and action projects to help end destruction). Tell us about your ‘End Plastic Waste’ mission and how it helps adidas solve this global problem?
We want to offer more sustainable options to our consumers by designing products made with recycled plastic or in partnership with other companies and organizations (such as Parley, above), as well as items that can be recycled, to stop them ending up in landfills. How do you envision using circular techniques to help mitigate the negative impact of plastic waste and pollution?
We plan to give consumers the option to return products that they no longer use to be either re-worked or recycled. Made To Be Remade is our current line made from recycled materials, and each piece can be recycled again at the end of its life.The objective is to be a platform with items made from sustainably sourced materials and to have more options for recycling old products and reducing waste. We’re also working on a new program for even more circular services. Does Otrium’s circular model help you to reach your targets with this mission?
Yes, for sure. Being more circular is key to help end plastic waste. For us, that’s giving consumers more opportunities to buy recycled products and finding more solutions for older items to be reused and repurposed.What else are you working on at the moment?
We want to develop more and more. We are working to make sure we achieve our commitment to make 9 out of 10 items more sustainably by 2025. We look for new innovations, we push our customers, and we bring forward communication to support our consumer on what we can do together.What is the biggest challenge on the roadmap of improvements?
Sustainability is a long journey, and we need to really put in the effort to bring this forward. We not only want to change what adidas does, but how our industry acts towards sustainability at large. We face challenges every day to find the best materials and the best way to resonate with consumers.What do customers value most about adidas and its products?
adidas is a strong sports brand and we’re here to bring the best for the athlete. For us, “Impossible is Nothing” and we carry this value with us to really strengthen our sustainability journey.Where do you see adidas in 5 years?
adidas wants to be the leader of sustainability in our industry. By 2025, 9 out of 10 items in our range will be made sustainably, and we will also stop using virgin polyester wherever possible (by 2024). Besides which, we want to be a more circular company as a whole by then. Do you think that through changing the historical fashion industry framework, we can achieve a reduction in plastic waste?
What we need to do is to change the industry. adidas has been working and investing in sustainability for years. We want to set an example, learn from our partners and keep fostering the change. If we lead, others will follow. By helping consumers be more sustainable, our mission to help end plastic waste will keep on going. What does the future of fashion look like?
Consumers are looking for more circularity. The fashion industry needs to adapt to introduce products that last longer, and can be recycled or have their lifecycle extended, so we can make sure we are not creating more waste. This is what people want and we need to provide the solutions. Amazing work. Thanks for chatting to us, adidas.
At Otrium, we’re constantly working towards making the fashion industry smarter and less wasteful. We also want to help our brand partners, both present and future, keep on top of the newest and forthcoming laws and legislation around sustainability and achieve their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals.
So, in collaboration with leading Corporate Sustainability Consultancy Sustainalize, we’re launching a series of blog posts aimed at simplifying these new laws and legislation. These posts will also contain guidance to help fashion brands comply with these policies. We hope they prove to be useful.
First up, is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). What is it, and why do fashion brands need to know about it?
EPR - an explanation Broadly speaking, EPR is a waste management concept aimed at reducing pollution and landfill use, while increasing recycling rates. In fashion industry-specific terms, it’s a policy whereby brands bear a significant degree of responsibility for the environmental impacts of everything they produce, taking the whole life-cycle of garments and accessories into account.
It’s not a new idea - it was first introduced over 30 years ago - but the importance of developing more circular systems for dealing with all textiles is becoming ever more apparent. EPR is intended to reimagine how every company and organisation sources and uses their materials, plus how they dispose of and reuse them.
What EPR would mean
The results of introducing an EPR policy could:undefinedundefinedundefinedCurrently, the EU’s only mandatory EPR is in France. But several European countries are investigating similar schemes for textiles including the Netherlands and Sweden. The European Commission is considering EPR as a general regulatory measure to promote sustainable textiles and better recycling for textile waste. The UK government has also committed to review and consult on an EPR scheme. Over in the US, various undefined and coalitions are lobbying policymakers to make EPR a reality there too. It’s not clear whether any of these will become mandatory, or even coordinated across countries. Either way, EPR and everything it potentially involves is an important consideration for everyone in the fashion industry.
EPR in France
France’s EPR policy was introduced in 2007 and passed into law to cover end-of-use clothing, linen, and shoes in January 2020. The policy is governed by Refashion (formerly Eco TLC), an accredited non-profit organisation, which represents 95% of the French textile industry and is responsible for the collection, recycling, and recovery of used textiles. The destruction of unsold textile products is forbidden under law.
France’s target for 2022 is to collect 50% of all the textiles put on the market, and from this collection, reach 95% of reuse or recycling of textiles, and a maximum of 2% waste. Policymakers have also implemented an extension of circularity on transparency of the production, as well as the bonuses and penalties paid by the manufacturers and information on potentially dangerous substances.
EPR in The NetherlandsThe Netherlands has a draft regulation that focuses on garments and home textiles.All producers in the Netherlands, as well as external producers who market within the country (including ecommerce), need to appoint a legal entity to carry out the EPR. By 2025, municipalities will have to collect textiles separately. The Dutch government has a target for 2025 that 50% of textile products should be recycled or reused. Producers are obligated to report their figures annually. By 2030, this target will increase to 75%. The estimated cost of waste management for producers is €0.09 to €0.28 per kilogram of textile.
EPR in SwedenSweden introduced an EPR for textiles from 1 January 2022. It will be phased in over several years with licensed textile collections starting on 1st January 2024. It’s hoped that from 2028 onwards, at least 90% of the textile waste collected by the new system will be reused or sent for material recovery. Sweden’s target by 2028 is to reduce the average amount of textile sent to landfill by 70%.
How to prepare for EPRWhile the whole industry waits to find out whether these potential EPR regulations will be set in stone, there are two different initiatives that brands can consider implementing to get ahead of the pack.