Clothes should be treasured, not bought and discarded like fast food

What can designers learn from waste? It’s a big question and one that can change the way we think about fashion.

Kate Fletcher, Professor of Sustainability at the London College of Fashion, held a recent talk on the ‘Craft of Use’ discussing our relationship with clothing, how we value it and the ways in which we tend and ‘use’ our clothes. Kate proposed fashion designers should think about clothes in the same way that architects think about how people use and interact with a space.

This struck a cord with me, as Retail Product Manager for Traid I handled thousands of second hand garments throughout the retail sorting process at the textile-recycling centre. During my first few weeks I came across a garment from a value brand I sourced fabric for only six months previously. I also spotted beautiful Italian jacquard dresses I sourced for a high-street brand five years previously which were looking immaculate, had a few stories to tell and plenty of life in them for the next owner.


I thought to myself, what would happen if designers spent one day each season in textile-recycling centres looking at trends in waste? Perhaps they could examine how clothing has been worn from their particular brand. What are the most common silhouettes and fabrics discarded? Could they be reused or recycled? What is the average life span of a garment? Many clothes, if looked after can last a lifetime.

According to WRAP ‘Extending the life of clothing by an extra nine months of active use would reduce carbon, waste and water footprints by around 20-30%’. If designers were informed about use and disposal habits and promoting emotional connection with clothing; could this potentially provide a sustainable design solution and encourage us to consume less?

For AW17/18 WGSN predict ‘Sustainability will no longer be a buzzword but an expected business practice’. Designers and brands need to look at the full spectrum of sustainability issues in relation to a garments entire lifespan. Clothing should be treasured and valued not bought and discarded like fast food.

To date, many positive partnerships have formed between brands, researchers, consultants and stakeholders. But, we need to join up our ways of working to share our insight, knowledge and experience from the worlds of fashion, sustainable design innovation as well as textile recycling. Designers need to think beyond the shop floor and design for life.

Enjoyed this guest blog? Claire is the part-time Retail Product Manager at Traid, and Part-time Lecturer in Fashion & Textiles at the University of West London. Follow her on Twitter here 

MORE: Inside Patagonia’s sustainable denim project

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