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From Recycling to Upcycling, These Fashion Brands Are Getting Creative with Sustainability

Young consumers want brands to take action on the environment. Here’s how some fashion brands are getting creative with promoting and incorporating sustainability…


YPulse’s research shows that young consumers worry about climate change—and 70% say they have changed some element of their behavior or purchasing because of the issue. YPulse’s latest sustainability report also found that young people’s expectations for brands to combat climate change is already high, with 82% of 13-39-year-olds saying that corporations have the most responsibility to address the issue head-on. We’ve spotlighted some of the fashion brands that have started taking sustainability seriously, and started to experiment with more eco-friendly systems—especially as young shoppers continue to shift to secondhand. Now, more companies are getting creative with the ways they’re showing how they care about the environment, and promoting the steps they’re taking towards sustainability. Recycling and upcycling (which Lucirmas defines as “creative recycling”) have been especially popular among fashion brands looking to get greener, and these are four brands that have been taking it on:

H&M’s Looop Island 

Last month, the fashion retailer teamed up with Maisie Williams, who is their new Global Sustainability Ambassador, on Animal Crossing to encourage young consumers to recycle—digitally. Ahead of Earth Day, the brand unveiled Looop Island on the popular video game. Players can explore and recycle their game outfits for new ones using the brand’s Looop Machine, which is the game’s first “recycling station.” The name of the island is inspired by H&M’s real-life recycling machine, which has the goal of closing “the loop in fashion” by finding a purpose for unused clothes. As part of their collaboration with the Game of Thrones actress, they introduced a 3D, lifelike “Avatar Maisie” who will make several appearances throughout the year to interact with customers on how they can take action. Our sustainability research found that 71% of 13-39-year-olds do whatever they can to live sustainably on a daily basis, and the 24-year-old actress has being doing just that in her own life, from remodeling her first home by using only recycled materials to using H&M’s actual Looop Machine to create a purple scarf out of recycled material that she wore in promos for brand—and making the accessory virtually available on the game. Williams told Vogue: “I hope that as people are playing this game and recycling their clothes online, they can make the connection between what is happening [virtually] and what they can pick up off a shelf in a store.”


YPulse’s sustainability report found that 39% of Millennials parents have purchased sustainably made clothing or accessories, and Carter’s targeting that market with a new kids’ clothing recycling program. Last month, the childrenswear brand teamed up with TerraCycle to introduce KIDCYCLE™, a recycling program offering environment-friendly alternatives to throwing out children’s clothing. The program collects any non-donatable brand of children’s clothing—excluding shoes and accessories—and will repurpose the fabrics to be used as new materials like furniture or workout equipment. TerraCycle’s CEO and Founder Tom Szaky said in a statement: “Through their recycling program, Carter’s is providing parents with a sustainable option to part with their children’s clothes that can no longer be passed on or donated.” Meanwhile, Decker’s-owned Teva is also partnering with TerraCycle to start their own recycling program, TevaForever Recycling Program. Recycling the brand’s sandals allows TerraCycle to repurpose the materials into things like playground parts and athletic fields.

JanSport’s Upcycled Collections

In the last year, JanSport has been finding new, and not always expected, ways to stay relevant with young customers: First, the company found ways to support young people’s mental health with their #LightenTheLoad campaign and now, they’re dabbling in sustainable fashion. Ahead of Earth Day, JanSport launched two sustainable, recycled collections: For one of them, they teamed up with New York-based upcycle artist and designer Nicole McLaughlin for a charitable, six-piece, “one-of-one kind” upcycled collection, which reimagines some of JanSport’s most classic backpack styles as completely new items. Fans had the opportunity to win one of the six “avante-garde styles” by visiting the brand’s site and purchasing a $5 sweepstakes entry ticket. All proceeds from the ticket sales are being donated to the Slow Factory Foundation, a nonprofit focused “on climate and supporting environmental impact through education.” Meanwhile, their other Surplus Ski n’ Hike collection features “excess materials [that] are rescued before they can hit the factory room floor, then transformed into a classic pack with the future in mind.”

The RealReal’s ReCollection Program

The luxury consignment marketplace teamed up with Gucci a few months ago to unveil an ecommerce site for secondhand pieces from customers and the luxury brand itself—and now they’re trying their hand at upcycling. Last month, The RealReal rolled out “ReCollection,” a program that “transforms damaged or distressed garments into new luxury pieces.” The collection features clothing from eight designers, including Stella McCartney, Balenciaga, A-Cold-Wall, Dries Van Noten, and Jacquemus. Meanwhile, the second collection will feature upcycled loungewear. The overall goal of the new program is to “keep more clothing out of the waste stream, as well as have a more meaningful environmental impact by prioritizing quality and longevity.”

YPulse Business users can access the full Sustainability report and data here.

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