Here’s one for the hardcore Temper courters! We are entering a new era. Not the one where we spend our days pajama-clad and house-bound, no. The one where we all get très, très trashique wearing recycled plastics. RPET. Repreve… Come again?
Those with the green gene are forgiven for raising an eyebrow: “sustainable fashion” made from plastic? First things first, according to Greenpeace polyester is now used in about 60 percent of our clothes and that is forecast to double by 2030.
Not only do we know that polyester is a bad egg; destructive in its use of fossil fuels, is emissions-heavy and is non-biodegradable, it also ends up in the guts of our sea creatures and invisibly pollutes our water.
The question beckons… What is there to like?
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RPET (better known as recycled polyester) is toted as one convenient answer to the problem. It can require less energy to produce, it diverts plastics from landfill/going into the sea by re-use instead of using up fossil fuels and it often requires less washing/lasts longer than natural fibers.
The cons? It still releases micro-fibers into the sea (and air), it is not easy to recollect and recycle, especially different types of plastics that require different processes and even if we just switched over to recycled it’s still not enough to make the dramatic energy savings and emissions cuts needed.
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So, what is a fashion furor to do? Poster-child for sustainable clothing Patagonia — designer of outdoor clothing and gear for the silent sports — recently announced that they have switched 80 percent of their polyester products from virgin to recycled fibers, amongst initiatives such as the exploration of “biodegradable synthetics” and further recycling investments.
Their customer message encourages us to buy recycled. Plus overall better and less.
Plastics Fantastics… Team China
Hangzhou’s popular native label JNBY (“just naturally be yourself”) in 2018 created Reverb — an entire brand focusing on sportswear and centered on recycled fibers and sustainability without compromising on style.
Fashion local Reclothing Bank (of Fake Natoo fame) also includes recycled polyester in their collections — in addition to the reclaimed fabrics they are famous for.
Burberry has rolled out two sports casual looks for the China conscious consumer made of recycled polyester.
Sports giants LiNing, Erke and 特步(XStep) have products on the proverbial shelf, described as “recycled polyester”.
Comparatively, since 2010, Nike has diverted more than 7 billion plastic bottles from landfills and all fly-knit shoes are made using recycled polyester. Only time will tell if local sports corps follow in their footsteps.
Team #1 HowBottle — HowTo Do Plastic
This brings us to HowBottle; a start-up over-flowing with enthusiasm and determination, light-heartedly riding the current wave of promotion-by-collaboration of their meaning-packed clothes and accessories. Just like us, they love a good story; not only have they collaborated with Coca-Cola but also with China Aerospace Corporation, CASC.
The numbers? They have thus far allegedly saved 600,000 waste plastic bottles from landfills which equates to savings of 23 tons of reduced petroleum and 23 tons of reduced CO2 emissions. Not bad!
The mantra? “Make yourself happy, make the world happy.”
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Huang Ningning and HowBottle, started out in 2017. Their most recent campaign “Good Bottle” uses canvases reborn from plastic bottles to collect stories worth seeing; to create “Good” products.”
Huang previously worked at Alibaba in e-commerce operations where her goal was to allow more people to buy more things. Huang felt something was off and during some time off spent traveling, she realized that happiness is not obtained through material goods but often through what nature can give to you.
“In the days when all my life could be packed into a bag, my life became full,” the designer sums up that time for Temper.
She realized she could put the power to change the environment in the hands of each customer. As she elaborates: “Our generation resonates very much with disposable plastic… This kind of material that has brought us such unlimited convenience has now begun to receive criticism. Though there are not enough materials and immediate solutions to fix the existing dilemmas problems.”
The HowBottle focus on people and culture is real and notable. “The uniqueness [of our products] represents the uniqueness of China’s younger generations,” Huang concludes.
Team #2 Juma Studio — The Sustainable Re-Birth
In an industry renowned for its high usage of natural resources, it is perhaps inevitable that more brands move towards a conscious mode of creation.
Canadian-born sister-and-brother Jamil and Alia Juma, captains of the aponymous Juma Studio ship, in 2003 started putting their shared global background to work for an international boutique fashion customer. Excitingly, Juma — offering directional workwear and lifestyle accessories — has now become a full-fledged sustainable company.
Their latest collection uses eco-friendly materials retrieved from, among others, recycled water bottles. “The idea is to create clothing that is directional in design with the purpose of reducing the impact on the environment as well as re-using existing materials as a smart design initiative,” the Juma siblings inform us.
The Juma website also helpfully explains the processes behind sustainable fashion for those who want to understand it. On that note, we asked if they think recycled plastic in fashion is an easy sell to fashion-lovers and if customer education is needed?
The Jumas to this end tell Temper: “The consumer is also becoming more aware of the needs of the environment and so the company sees they are also looking for ways to participate and contribute by supporting and wearing brands that align with this movement.”
Team #3 Pawnstar — If Plastic Bags Could Talk
Pawnstar Vintage recently produced its first-ever recycled accessories collection made from recycled plastic bottles. See bag (above), read bag (below):
“I am a bag made of a new type of environmentally friendly [plastic] material; low-toxic and low-lead which reduces the loss of materials and dust during the production.
I want to let everyone know that plastic bags are not only disposable.
I am affordable because that is what people like but you don’t need to throw me away when my life-cycle is over as my materials can be recycled and reused.
Though I am not made of 100 percent recycled plastic and there is no certificate it is because IF, in China, an item were to be made of 100 percent recycled plastic in China, it could be recycled NO more…
No wastewater is discharged and no glue is used. I am also concerned about the health of the workers’ working environment.”
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Ancient truth holds that turbulent times drive the biggest innovations.
There’s a lot to like about that.
EDITED BY ELSBETH VAN PARIDON FOR THE CHINA TEMPER
FEATURED IMAGE: COURTESY OF HOWBOTTLE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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- China’s Plastics Fantastics: Recycled Style, Freshly Bottled - March 31, 2020