About a three years ago, I bought some shoes and a belt from Zara online. They didn't fit, so I took them to a shop in person (to avoid returns shipping) to return them. I stood aghast as the person at the till informed me I was 1 day over the 30 day returns policy and the items could not be returned. At all. They are still sat in the bottom of my closet.
We take clothing waste very seriously at the Bshirt. As a female founder of an ethical micro brand I was really proud to be part of a team which launched our new rental portal for breastfeeding clothes this week. It makes sense. Rent what you need while you need it. It took months of fundraising and planning to launch. But, as if by magic, the very same week that we launched our well thought out rental portal, both M&S and Zara announced their own too.
M&S have expanded their limited items available for rental, using a third party to outsource their green credentials and Zara are announcing that they will buy back, repair, rent and sell preloved (so long as you don't try returning something after 30 days, lol). All because Circular Fashion is being demanded from consumers. That's a good thing - right?
It depends on what you think Circular Fashion means. If it means getting headlines for dipping a toe in sustainable practices whilst at the same time continuing with your over-consumption practices, that to me is blatant greenwashing.
The truth of the matter is this:
- Cotton clothing is grown. It's a natural resource. As a society we don't waste food, but we are happy to waste clothes.
- We are wearing clothes for 50% less time than we did 20 years ago, according to Greenpeace.
- A huge portion of UK clothing waste comes from returns, where new clothes get sent to landfill because it is cheaper for brands to manufacture it again, than it is to process returns, according to Rio Esg
If big brands are responding to a new demand from customers that they want better options for consuming clothing in a more sustainable way, then that is amazing and completely worth celebrating. The point of Circular fashion is to consume less. But not just the shopper - the retailer needs to consume less too.
The retailer needs to be ordering less clothes as a result of their sustainable, circular practices. That is the point of circular fashion. I would love to see these initiatives from M&S and Zara lead to a reduction in clothing manufacturing - I want to know if their production decreased, I want to know if they consumed less cotton, if they shipped less goods, if they reduced their co2e because they are repairing and reselling rather than manufacturing new products.
I hope that behind the snazzy headlines those are indeed their intentions.
Consuming less by manufacturing less certainly are our intentions - those are the very reasons we have put circular practices in place in the first place. It's better for our business and for the planet, so it's a win win. We are measuring and tracking our garment's lifecycle - from the cotton farmers to the last person who wears it and beyond to be either upcycled or recycled. It's a huge undertaking for a small brand with limited resources. But it's what we are all about, and when you're the real deal, it's not really an option.
You can check out our Rental portal for breastfeeding clothes here