It’s a Bag World
We are a bag culture. Shopping bags, cross body bags, duffel bags, day packs, and totes. Bags for fishing poles, tools, and computers, the list goes on. In today’s go-go lifestyle, bags are what keep us and all our stuff together and functioning. We love bags because they are useful.
I make and sell little bags and packs and totes. With that comes being mindful of all the bags around me and witnessing people’s reactions and relationships to the bags in their life. Customers routinely tell us about how they plan on using their new bag and we hear all kinds of interesting stories about their intent. There is a common thread to the stories; I have come to the conclusion that being useful is connected to the idea of something doing its job, forever.
Can the apparel industry embrace the permanence of being useful?
Sustainability is a difficult task for any industry. It is obvious that in order to be more sustainable our society needs to reduce, recycle and repurpose. For the textile and the sewn goods industries sustainability will require two things: A massive recycling effort coupled with a shift in cultural values surrounding conscious consumption. Is it possible that these points of view can converge, and consumers learn to see the endless recycling of their apparel as being useful? Their clothing isn’t trashed or donated or tucked out of sight, but rather it is gone for now and coming back soon to be reused. People might enjoy the idea of their next pair of pants having been made from their last pair of pants. They might like it if their clothes go to the great fiber maker in the sky and come back to them in the form of this year’s fashion, giving way to a permanent closet, where garments live on forever, and continue to be useful.
Garment recycling is the key ingredient in working towards textile sustainability. In order for it to happen at a meaningful scale, recycling sewn goods will have to be as ubiquitous as recycling aluminum cans. Textile companies must play a major role in this effort as they stand at the crossroads between the creation and regeneration of fabrics. Brands could design and market garments that facilitate recycling, perhaps even have collections that are made exclusively from their own recycled garments. I know collecting and preparing garments for recycling will take money, and perhaps mandates, but given the choice, I believe consumers will be happy to close the loop and see their old clothing shipped off to be reborn as trendy new outfits.
Disclaimer: When Mr. Gray goes to the great fiber maker in the sky, he is going to ask for sweatpants and a comfy tee shirt. The publisher may not share in his opinions or choice of afterlife outfits.