‘Durable’ fashion would save £5bn and cut key footprints, says WRAP

Increasing the durability and expanding the lifespan of items of clothing by nine extra months could reduce carbon, waste and water footprints by 20-30% each and cut resource costs by £5bn, a new report from WRAP has found.

The organisation’s Sustainable Clothing report, developed with the help of companies signed up to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan, highlights the methods that retailers and brands can implement to extend the active life of clothes in order to unlock sustainable and fiscal benefits.

The report states: “Clothing designed to withstand wear and tear and to appeal to the customer for longer also helps to promote brand loyalty, confidence, and customer satisfaction.

“In a saturated marketplace, quality and durability will help retain customers while attracting new buyers from your competitors.”

The report encourages brands to implement changes during the design process, such as moving away from cotton to source better fabrics which can then be treated with a bio-polish, as a way to extend a product’s lifetime by 20%.

Developing clearly defined testing protocols during the manufacturing stage can enhance product specifications and increase the consistency of quality which creates greater product durability and promotes a healthy brand image, WRAP says.

Closed loop

The report notes that, while physical durability can be easily enhanced, ’emotional durability’ – how long someone is willing to wear undamaged products – can be much harder to promote.

While design styles such as v-necks and pencil skirts can create a longer-lasting products, forming partnerships with charities can encourage re-use when the inevitable consumer discard occurs.

As a charity, WRAP plans to divert 90,000 tonnes of clothing away from landfill each year in Europe by 2019 and has recently received a €3.6m fund from the European Union to implement schemes across 11 countries.

Meanwhile, two fashion designers have already drawn up plans to create high-end clothing designs from garments given to charity. And elsewhere, Ocado has recently teamed up with social enterprise charity Hubbub and a prison in Northumberland to prevent corporate uniforms being unnecessarily sent to landfill.

In a bid to promote a closed-loop fashion sector, international fashion brand H&M pledged to improve the circularity of its clothing fibres after becoming a Global Partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

And in an edie exclusive last week, Letitia Webster, the senior global director of corporate sustainability at VF Corporation – which owns Timberland, The North Face and Wrangler commented on the importance that the global climate agreement in Paris would have in protecting the sectors supply chain.

WRAP Sustainable Clothing Guide

Matt Mace

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