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Opinion piece in BoF | By unspun's co-founder Beth Esponnette

Business of Fashion | From products made of recycled plastic to take-back programmes, some of fashion’s favourite sustainability solutions are problematic, argues Beth Esponnette.

Our co-founder Beth Esponnette’s take on the risks of marketing real solutions in sustainable fashion.

Replace “sustainable” with “less bad” in today’s fashion headlines and you get a more accurate picture of reality: “Less Bad Fashion Trends You Need To Know In 2023.” “Less Bad Fashion Influencers Take On Fast Fashion.” “Building a Less Bad Fashion Industry in 2023.” “Less bad” than the status quo is how I have come to make sense of the industry’s attempts to sell itself as more sustainable. But some of fashion’s favourite sustainability solutions can actually result in outcomes that are worse than the status quo.

Flat lay of plastic bottles

It’s easy to think of recycling water bottles into clothing as upcycling since we think of single-use plastics as trash and expect to wear a piece of clothing at least a few times. But transforming water bottles into clothing is actually moving down the lifecycle chain. Those water bottles could have become bottles again. But now, beverage brands and clothing brands compete for used bottles, and when they are turned into clothing they can never become a bottle again, and are unlikely to become clothing again either, reducing their lifespan.

Suspended unspun jeans

Rather than going for sustainability solutions that make for good marketing, we need to focus on the root issues. We should combat overproduction with on-demand manufacturing technologies. We should stop using materials that cannot be sustained by the planet indefinitely. We should stop making products haphazardly, with poor quality and no regard for their end of life, and instead design for disassembly and circularity. Because “Building a Worse Fashion Industry in 2023″ doesn’t have a great ring to it.

We know that no one is perfect, let alone no brand is perfect in every sense of the sustainability word, but it’s great that there are many individuals and brands working hard to make an impact. However, the fact of the matter is that there are a number of brands that are using sustainable initiatives for the wrong reasons. This is the core issue that needs to be addressed.

Read the full article by Beth Esponnette on Business of Fashion.

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Business of Fashion | From products made of recycled plastic to take-back programmes, some of fashion’s favourite sustainability solutions are problematic, argues Beth Esponnette.

February 14, 2023
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Beth Esponnette
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