Today you can walk into a lot of stores and see a recycling bin for you to hand in your old clothes for them to be recycled and to be turned into new clothes. Girlfriend Collective is an activewear doing exactly that. Over time they have figured out how to create garments out of recycled plastic bottles, this new programme has been developed to collect their used garments from their customers so they can be turned into new ones.
If the programme turns out to be a success, then this could end up being a model that could be implemented across the fashion industry, especially for brands who struggle to meet environmental goals. Companies like H&M and Madewell have popular schemes where customers can return their old clothes to have them recycled and turned into new clothes; in a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2017, they found that less than 1% of clothing actually gets recycled and turned into new clothes. Instead, the used clothes that are donated to lower income countries all over the world, or in some cases have been used for other things, such as using them for insulation, wiping cloths or even mattress stuffing in some cases. Brands recycling old clothes and turning them into brand new clothes, represents a big step in the right direction for the fashion industry; however it is challenges within the supply chain and the way the clothes are made, which create issues further down the line for fashion companies when dealing with these old clothes.
For brands like Girlfriend Collective, Páramo Clothing and Project Plan B to name a few brands who are known for recycling clothes, ensure the materials are reused for clothing so that the planets natural resources aren’t put under pressure. It is also popular with customers and are a good way to encourage more customers to do the same thing.
Regirlfriend is the recycling scheme for Girlfriend Collective. The founder of Girlfriend Collective, Quang Dinh, ensured that they would work closely with their fabric suppliers, along with Unifi in North Carolina are there to ensure all of the logistics and any technology can all work effectively. When Girlfriend develop a garment out if a recycled piece of clothing before sending it to Unifi to have it evaluated, before it can be placed on sale.
The major problem with most recycled clothing schemes is that most clothes are made out of blended fabrics, which aren’t as easy to recycle as single materials, especially when those fabrics are combined with metal zips or any other embellishments. Girlfriend Collective’s polyester garments are manufactured cleverly, so if there is any add on that isn’t polyester, such as the zips or tags, they are all designed so it can be removed, and the garment can be recycled. However, the problem is that this material heavily contributes to microplastic pollution in our oceans.
The solution is there. Now we need to figure out how to make it more mainstream and get more people involved in recycling their old clothes.