After a lull in my posts due to finals and travels over spring break, I’d like to pick back up on a subject different from food but equally essential to our daily lives—clothing.
Clothes, especially those made out of synthetic fabrics like polyester can take hundreds of years to decompose in the landfill. They are also made from petrochemicals, thus have large carbon footprints. The book Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy gives great insight into the stages cotton goes through in its lifecycle. Non-organic cotton can cause as much ecological harm as traditional agro-industry.
Sustainable clothing made from natural fabrics, like hemp, have held namely a niche market. This is definitely on the verge of changing. The other weekend, while shopping at one of my favorite retailers, H&M, I discovered a new collection of sustainable clothing. The Garden Collection, released in Spring 2010, is made from sustainable materials like organic wool, linen, and cotton as well as recycled cotton, polyester, and wool. The recycled materials are derived mostly from H&M’s leftovers from the production process. This is a great example of using sustainability initiatives to capture a growing market while becoming more efficient.
Another interesting aspect of the H&M model, is that its inventory and distribution systems are extremely responsive to customer demands. Accurate forecasting and a Just-In-Time-Distribution system allow for very short lead times, which in turn satisfy rapidly changing trends. My prediction is that we will see other retailers with similar models—such as Zara and Forever21—will soon roll out sustainable clothing lines as well.
The Garden Collection does not contain the typical ill-fitting, tie-dyed garments that we associate with sustainable clothing; rather, it is quite fashion forward. The garments blend beautifully with the other items that H&M offers, and are just as affordable. I especially loved this breezy blue shift, and chic red cocktail dress: