It’s easier than ever to go eco-friendly with just about anything, and that includes fashion (even activewear!). With fashion-forward brands making their wares out of innovative materials, your used water bottle might soon be someone’s sweater.
So, how does a plastic bottle get from the recycling truck to a clothing rack? We tapped into some of fashion’s most eco-conscious to find out.
“Our garments are made from post-consumer PET, which consists of used plastic bottles, cups, containers and more,” says Kiran Jade, CEO of Wolven, a fashion company founded on sustainability principles. To get from a bottle to fabric, the PET is recycled, sorted, separated from other materials (metals, other plastics, etc.), crushed, washed and dried. Then the PET is shredded into small flakes that are used to make polyester fibers.
“The process of creating Recycled PET (RPET) requires significantly less water than the process of creating virgin polyester or creating cotton and, since plastic cannot be destroyed, it also helps divert plastics from landfills,” says Jade.
And it’s not just clothes that are taking eco-conscious cues. While eco-fashion has been bubbling for a few years now, the trend has been slower to take shape in the accessories market. Stirling Barrett, founder of KREWE, is hoping to change that by designing sustainably made eyewear. Celebrity fans already include Gigi Hadid, Beyonce and Megan Markle.
“We use acetate, a plant-based plastic, which is renewable and better for the environment than most injection-mold frames,” says Barrett. “In our Reformation collection, we utilized a custom material called cellulose acetate, which is a fancy term for fibers made from seeds, conifers and broadleaves.”
The problem that designers like Barrett face is that overall demand for these types of sustainable materials is still relatively low, meaning their availability is limited and more expensive to produce — which makes eco-fashion more expensive for consumers. But as manufacturing shifts to more conscious materials, consumers have the power to change that.
The fashion industry is the third-most polluting industry in the world, according to Christina Almeida, the founder of Pildora, the fashion world’s first global events startup dedicated to sustainability. But Almeida says small changes can make a difference. “Fashion designers should also bear in mind that it does not have to be a complete overhaul; it can be a gradual process through slowly integrating sustainability into different aspects.”
And sticking to sustainable materials doesn’t have to make for boring fashion. Devin Gilmartin, the president of Querencia Studio, a fashion brand that creates clothing solely using recyclable materials like organic cotton, hemp and bamboo, says that a more mindful approach leads to more creative fashion. “A problem can lead to a solution which can lead to innovation in other, seemingly disparate, realms.”
While we can’t change the world in a day, we can certainly start by working more earth-friendly brands into our wardrobe. From the avant-garde to the everyday, here’s a look at some emerging standouts.
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