There is so much opportunity in being a big business that there’s no excuse for not doing the right thing, says Christopher Raeburn comparing his British-born Raeburn brand with the global scale of Timberland, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast.
Raeburn has been creative director at the latter since late 2018, where he says he is focusing on putting responsible, innovative design at the centre of its strategy. But it’s through his work and experience for the smaller Raeburn business that he’s able to do so, he explains.
“One of the ways I’ve always looked at Raeburn is almost like a Remora – those small fish that clean sharks… sometimes they can clean the teeth and everything like that. I think it’s a really interesting analogy, because by swimming alongside sometimes those big big fish in the ocean, A) you have the opportunity to clean them, and that’s exciting because they want to be cleaned. B) you have the opportunity to talk to them a little bit and then maybe you can start to really steer them. And if they want to be steered and it’s a really good partnership then you’re going to go in the right direction together,” he says.
Raeburn, which was founded in 2009, has built up its business focused on three key areas that all come under the circularity header: reduced, remade and recycled. But that was the case long before sustainability itself became a “trend”.
“I never really set out to start a responsible company. It was more a company that started from common sense. And it fascinates me, as I say, that there is all of this stuff out there. And why can’t we reuse and remake it before we even need to buy anything new,” Raeburn notes.
Join us as we also explore why scaling such a model is essential for the future of our industry, how much opportunity is coming down the pipeline from what we currently consider trash, and the role business has to play in education today.
Nike has created a circular design guide that aims to give the fashion industry a common language for circularity.
The guide comes with 10 principles of circular design, including topics such as “material choices” and “waste avoidance”.
Each of these are explained in more depth within it, including via case studies of successful design innovation by Nike and other brands.
They include video footage of a Central Saint Martins student and Nike staff talking on the principles, as well as an inspirational quote.
What follows are thought-starters for designers to think about the concept in more depth. Under the “material choices” principle for instance, it asks: “How could your material choice increase the lifecycle or durability of the product?”
A number of case study examples then follow, such as an outline of Nike’s Flyleather material, a sustainable leather alternative made of leftover factory off-cuts. Other case studies come from brands such as Levi’s, Fjallraven, Patagonia, Outerknown and Eileen Fisher.
The last section features inspirational publications, including “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, which outlines the founding principles of the circular economy, according to the non-profit Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
It is freely accessible to anyone interested in knowing more about circularity. The launch coincides with the annual Copenhagen Fashion Summit, one of the industry’s most important sustainability events of the year.
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Earth Day, an annual event designed to demonstrate support for environmental protection, has seen brands from Adidas to Ralph Lauren introduce new sustainable products this year.
Such announcements come alongside a wave of many marketing-led initiatives. New product lines such as t-shirts and canvas bags are being promoted with proceeds going to various non-profit organizations dedicated to climate change or the environment. While these moves are valid in many instances – apparel brand Tentree for instance will plant one tree for every 10 likes it receives on social media with a goal of 500,000 trees – many others feel too close to pushing the button of consumerism on a day that should be encouraging otherwise.
Here we’ve highlighted five examples where we believe strongly there’s more behind the promotional story. That’s because a new kind of consumerism is being pushed focused on circularity. In all of these announcements, the big focus is on recycled materials, with innovations ranging from an entire shoe made from one single material, to reducing the impact of water, energy and waste, as well as removing plastic bottles from landfills and the oceans.
Arguably none of these are simple in their execution, which is what makes them worth paying attention to as we celebrate this year’s Earth Day.
Adidas presented the “Futurecraft Loop” sneaker, a running shoe made from one single material: 100% recyclable virgin synthetics. This compares to the usual running shoe where 12-15 different materials would be utilized, meaning the same number of recycling techniques would be needed. Here, what we’re looking at by comparison is simplicity when it comes to moving towards a circular economy (hence the use of the word “loop”), because the entire shoe can be recycled in one single process.
When customers return a pair to Adidas, the shoe will be broken down and reused to create new performance running sneakers. The Futurecraft Loop took almost six years to develop, and is set to be released in spring/summer 2021.
Ralph Lauren launched a version of its iconic polo made from recycled plastic bottles and dyed with a zero-water process. Each “Earth Polo” takes an average of 12 bottles to create, it said. In addition, Ralph Lauren has committed to removing at least 170 million bottles from landfills and oceans by 2025.
Everlane announced it will launch a new sneaker called “Tread by Everlane”. Rolling out on April 25, the shoe is made of recycled polyester laces and lining. Its soles are a combination of natural and recycled rubber for a sole that’s 94.2% free of virgin plastic, in contrast with the average sneaker sole made almost entirely of plastic.
Everlane’s sneakers are also carbon-neutral. The brand partnered with a third-party firm to calculate the emissions and says it is working with NativeEnergy to support its goal of offsetting 100% of the carbon emissions from its production.
Nike announced a new sustainable collection called the “Earth Day” pack, which includes new releases of the Nike Air Force 1, Cortez, and Blazer Low sneaker using Nike Flyleather, a material made with 50% recycled natural leather fiber. Flyleather, which was first introduced fully to market in late 2018, uses less water and has a lower carbon footprint than traditional leather manufacturing. It’s also makes use of a more efficient process, resulting in less waste. Each of the new shows released in this collection also feature special Earth Day designs by artist Steve Harrington. The graphics show the planet Earth being hugged, carried or “warming” due to exercise.
Nike has further announced it will have more sustainable designs coming out this year. In the summer, it will launch the new VaporMax 2 “Random”, constructed from excess FlyKnit yarn that would have ended up in a landfill.
Sustainable footwear brand Allbirds also released a limited edition sneaker line for Earth Day. Dubbed “Protect Our Species”, it comes in five new colors in honor of climate-endangered birds. Each pair costs $95, and all income from the collection will be donated to the Audubon Society bird conservation organization.
Allbirds is already known for creating sneakers from renewable materials like eucalyptus, sugar and wool, and for continuing to push the sustainability agenda in fashion. For Earth Day, it also committed to going carbon neutral in 2019, placing a tax upon itself. This means for every tonne of carbon it emits, it will pay to then take it out of the atmosphere again.
How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.
Japanese sportswear label ASICS has introduced a program that will use donated sportswear as the raw material for the official uniforms of the Japanese Olympic and Paralympic teams at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. In order to collect the unwanted items, the brand is placing collection boxes across Japan, including at own stores, partner retailers and sporting events, up until May 31.
The “ASICS Reborn Wear Project” hopes to gather approximately 30,000 items of sportswear and give the Games’s competitors uniforms rich with the memories of the people who have worn them, in order to further spur them on.
Anyone is allowed to donate clothing, and collection boxes will also display a barcode that once scanned opens a dedicated website inviting people to sign up for a special newsletter. Users will then receive messages from athletes, information on Tokyo 2020 and progress reports on what is happening with all donated clothing. There will also be a digital tool that enables people to digitally frame photos of their own sportswear that holds sentimental value and share it on social media, hoping to further build up a sense of positive energy ahead of the Games.
To promote the program, ASICS will also roll out advertisements featuring the brand’s staff members, as well as Japanese sprinter Yoshihide Kiryu and former freestyle wrestler Saori Yoshida, showcasing their own personal sportswear.
The sustainable initiative is a part of the brand’s bigger ambitions towards sustainability. It has also announced a target to reduce carbon emissions by 2030 in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will include replacing polyester materials used on its shoe uppers and sportswear products with 100% recycled polyester.
How are you thinking about sustainable textiles? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your sustainability strategy. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.
H&M has partnered with ride-hailing service Lyft to make it more convenient for New Yorkers to donate unwanted clothing through its Garment Collecting program. From January 22-27, the first 5,000 customers to order a Lyft using a special discount code, HMRECYCLES, will be able to grab a free ride to their nearest H&M store.
“H&M is thrilled to partner with Lyft in a joint effort to give garments a second life through H&M’s Garment Collecting program,” said Martino Pessina, president of H&M North America. “Sustainability is a part of everything we do, and we are excited this initiative will allow more New Yorkers to both learn about and get involved in the program.”
The partnership will enable both brands further drive their respective sustainability goals.
In 2018, Lyft committed to full carbon neutrality and 100% renewable energy by offsetting the carbon emission from all its rides – meaning every ride in NYC is now carbon-neutral. The service has also partnered with cities and public transit agencies across the US to launch bike and scooter schemes.
H&M, on the other hand, has been developing tools and services that aim to help the fashion industry – and its consumers – be more accountable for their actions. The Garment Collection program, which launched in 2013, has so far collected over 163m pounds of textiles globally. In order to incentivize consumers to come into their stores and donate clothing, it offers a 15% discount for future purchases.
Last year, TheCurrent Daily spoke to Anna Gedda, head of sustainability at the H&M Group, on the Innovators podcast about the company’s ambitious goals to become 100% circular by 2030.
How are you thinking about sustainability? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your sustainability strategy. TheCurrent Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.
From sustainability guru Stella McCartney to German premium label Hugo Boss, brands across the spectrum have been experimenting with textile innovations that aim to push the industry towards a greener future.
This mission comes with a sense of urgency, with several reports predicting the uncomfortable reality of resource scarcity. A statistic from The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that humans were using the equivalent of 1.7 planets’ worth of natural resources in 2017.
Such resources, and water specifically, are central to the fashion industry’s supply chain. From planting and irrigating cotton fields, to dyeing and washing fabric – a world without enough water and raw materials spells out an uncertain future.
“In the worst case, the fashion industry will face distinct restrictions on one or more of its key input factors, leaving it unable to grow at the projected rate and in the long run unable to continue under its current operating model,” said the Global Fashion Agenda in its The Pulse of The Fashion Industry report.
It’s for that reason, the industry is exploring the circular economy, which takes the traditional, make-use-dispose model in fashion, and rather promotes a closed-loop where items are reused, recycled and reduced.
We’ve seen numerous startups playing in this space for years, experimenting with different natural ingredients and formulas to create textiles ready for market. Today, a number of brands are jumping on board and partnering with such teams in order to replace traditional materials.
Here are nine of the strongest examples…
Stella McCartney has been championing sustainable fashion since the formation of her namesake label, pushing the envelope of what circular textile innovation means for the industry at large.
One stand-out circular textile from the brand is Re.Verso™, a regenerated cashmere made from post-factory cashmere waste in Italy. According to the brand’s self-implemented Environmental P&L account, using this alternative material reduced its impact by 92%.
Direct-to-consumer brand Everlane, which pioneered the concept of a transparent supply chain through its “radical transparency” approach, announced its newest sustainable material just this month – a fleece called ReNew, which is made from recycled plastic bottles.
The brand also pledged to replace all materials made of virgin plastic (including polyester and nylon) with material made of plastic water bottles and renewed materials by 2021. It expects to be recycling 100 million water bottles through its supply chain.
ADIDAS X PARLEY FOR THE OCEANS
Adidas’ partnership with Parley for the Oceans, a non-profit organization set to remove and recycle waste from the ocean, has been an elemental part of the brand’s sustainability strategy.
In 2015, the two companies teamed up to make a sneaker that was made entirely of yarn recycled from ocean waste and illegal deep-sea gill nets. While the shoe was impressive in both design and sustainability, the partnership really started to come to fruition last year when sneakers like the Parley x Adidas Ultra Boost became more widely available to the public. Eric Liedtke, head of global brands at the company, said each pair of shoes uses the equivalent of 11 plastic bottles, which means that Adidas has recycled some 55 million plastic bottles this year.
In August 2018, direct-to-consumer footwear brand Allbirds announced the launch of “SweetFoam”, a biodegradable and environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-based materials traditionally used in the manufacturing process of shoe-soles. The first product the brand created with SweetFoam was a range of sustainable flip-flops called Sugar Zeffers.
The new material, which is made up of a sugarcane base, marks an important achievement in the industry, as it is the first ever carbon-neutral green alternative to the traditional EVA foam. To inspire industry-wide change, Allbirds also made this technology open-source and therefore available to everyone.
The shoe, which is also called the Cotton + Corn sneaker, is made with a cotton top and a bioplastic sole created from a corn-derived alternative material. It is also the first in its category to be certified by the United States Department of Agriculture to consist of 75% bio-based content.
Los Angeles-based sustainable fashion brand, Reformation, has been making fashion using end-of-roll fabrics for years, but through its newest category, underwear, it’s taking things a step further.
The intimates collection is made using a mixture of sustainable fabrics such as recycled lace, eco mesh (a recycled type of yarn) and Lenzing TENCEL, a patented fabric derived from a wood cellulose material.
For its new Plant Bae collection, direct-to-consumer fashion brand, Aday, wanted to trial a new fabric composition using SeaCell, a fiber created from seaweed from the Icelandic coast.
Every four years, the seaweed is harvested and spun into fiber together with lyocell to stabilize. For the Plant Bae collection, it was also enhanced with cellulose and modal to create an additionally soft fabric composition. The innovative material has seen previous incarnations in Falke socks and Lululemon sportswear in its VitaSea collection.
Salvatore Ferragamo created a capsule collection in 2017 made from an innovative new material derived from leftover orange peel. The brand partnered with Italian company, Orange Fiber, to product the silk-feel line, which included apparel such as t-shirts and delicate scarves.
This material is, for now, aplenty: a recent figure from the Italian Agricultural Department revealed that waste from the juice industry resulted in 700,000 tonnes of discarded orange peel on a yearly basis in Italy alone.
German brand Hugo Boss released limited collection footwear in April 2018 using discarded pineapple leaves that imitate the texture of leather. The material, called Piñatex, has been used by smaller footwear brands such as Bourgeois Boheme, although Hugo Boss is one of the first mainstream brands to adopt it.
Piñatex is derived from the leaves of the pineapple plant, a byproduct of the pineapple harvest that has no other use for farmers. The creation of the textile therefore provides local farmers with an additional income.
How are you thinking about sustainable innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.
Nike is pushing forward with its circularity goals through a challenge that invited designers, engineers and scientists around the globe to come up with creative products using footwear material waste.
The Nike Circular Innovation contest posed two challenges to applicants: creating new products using materials from the Nike Grind program, which is the company’s initiative to collect post-consumer athletic shoes by any brand; and to develop new technologies to advance footwear recycling.
The challenge, which started in February, received over 600 applications from 58 countries. The sportswear brand eventually narrowed the selection down to 35 finalists, who were tasked with creating a product using rubber, foam, fiber, leather and textile blends recovered from its manufacturing process. In the end, five groups won the Design with Grind challenge, and one group was awarded for its Material Recovery Fix.
What the design finalists came up with included everything from furniture to yoga and street safety, and even a vacuum mattress for people suffering from neurodevelopmental disorders. The brand hasn’t yet disclosed whether it will further develop the ideas with each of them.
As for the materials challenge, the brand awarded Florida-based plastic experts SumaRec, which identified two new phases that could be added to Nike’s material recovery process: an additional step which divides materials based on their weight, and an extra material-grinding step.
At this year’s Copenhagen Fashion Summit in June, Nike COO Eric Sprunk said that at present, 75% of Nike’s products already contain some recyclable materials. “Our rule is: there is no innovation without sustainability.” He further announced the introduction of a new ‘supermaterial’ from recyclable natural leather fiber. The textile, called Flyleather, will be used in popular styles such as the Air Jordan and Air Max.
How are you thinking about material innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.
H&M has invested in several major startups in recent months indicating a direction of travel for the retailer that’s related to greater personalization, a circular economy and increased convenience for shoppers.
The group announced it is backing men’s personal styling service, Thread, this week through its venture arm, CO:LAB. It is putting $13m into the artificial intelligence-based startup, which has just closed a $22m Series B round.
The UK-based service offers recommendations for men on what to wear by combining data with a layer of human insight.
The team behind it said the funding will go towards “hiring data scientists and engineers to make the artificial intelligence much more powerful”, according to CEO and co-founder Kieran O’Neill. The site sells 536 brands, including Paul Smith, Diesel, Barbour and Hugo Boss, among others.
What Thread has alongside that, of course, is data into how men shop and what their tastes are. H&M says its interest lies in exactly that to strengthen the personalized shopping experience that it too can offer shoppers at a time when such expectations are only increasing.
With that same consideration comes the fact shoppers now demand better options around payments, it has also noted. Enter its $20m investment in Klarna, a Swedish fintech startup.
The funding, announced just last week, signals a global partnership that will see Klarna’s digital payments technology integrated into H&M’s physical and digital stores. The outcome will “provide an enhanced omnichannel customer payment offering [and] a streamlined post-purchase service in the H&M app”, according to the company.
What Klarna is particularly known for is its “try before you buy” service, which gives shoppers the flexibility to pay for their items later. That will be available eventually to H&M customers in 14 markets, starting with the UK and Sweden in 2019.
Karl-Johan Persson, CEO of the H&M group, referred to the move as part of a strategic and relentless focus on creating great customer experiences.
“We know the industry is undergoing a huge shift – the catalyst for this transformation is technology. It’s not just one technology, but a set that includes artificial intelligence, augmented reality, robotics and more,” he said back in February at the company’s Capital Markets Day.
“There are changing consumer behaviours as a result – they are expecting more and more. They expect a more tailored offering in how we set up our stores, in how we communicate with [them]. They want a hassle free shopping experience, and the ability to shop anywhere and anytime. And they want even better designs at higher quality and better prices.”
Meanwhile, the company is also placing a big focus on sustainability. One of its other broad ambitions is to move to a 100% circular model by 2030, which means that everything it uses will go back into the system to be either recycled or reused.
Another, quieter investment it announced in August helps with this – it led a £5m round for polymer recycling technology startup, Worn Again Technologies. This is a business focused on how to drive circularity for the fashion industry by separating, decontaminating and extracting polyester polymers and cellulose from cotton to create new products as part of a repeatable process.
As Cyndi Rhoades, Worn Again Technologies’ CEO, said: “There are enough textiles and plastic bottles ‘above ground’ and in circulation today to meet our annual demand for raw materials to make new clothing and textiles. With our dual polymer recycling technology, there will be no need to use virgin oil by-products to make new polyester and the industry will be able to radically decrease the amount of virgin cotton going into clothing by displacing it with new cellulose fibres recaptured from existing clothing.”
At present, less than 1% of non-wearable textiles are turned back into new textiles due to technical and economic limitations of current recycling methods. This will therefore help with H&M’s goal.
As the group’s head of sustainability, Anna Gedda, explained on TheCurrent Innovators podcast recently: “We only have one planet, and the toll [the fashion industry] has on resources today is simply unsustainable.”
How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.
“We only have one planet, and the toll [the fashion industry] has on resources today is simply unsustainable,” says Anna Gedda, head of sustainability at the H&M Group, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.
She was referring to the company’s goal to move towards a 100% circular model by 2030, which means that everything it uses will go back into the system to be either recycled or reused.
Speaking to TheCurrent’s chief innovation officer, Rachel Arthur, at a FashMash event in London, she said the aim of the business is to keep all that is good with the fashion industry – from providing clothes to an ever increasing global population, to contributing to job opportunities and development – but doing so within the planetary boundaries.
“If you do that, if you only use what is in the system in terms of resources, then we believe that you can continue to consume fashion in the future and you will be able to have prosperous communities that depend on the fashion industry in a good way,” she explains.
It’s a cumbersome road ahead to get there of course, with the industry needing to rethink everything from design, materials, consumption, recycling and more. And while there are already plenty of ideas out there – with H&M’s non-profit Foundation leading the way with an annual award for startups in the space – time, effort and big investment is needed to get many of them to scale.
“At the moment there is not much out there in terms of what is scalable, but if we look at the pipeline of innovation that is coming, it’s fantastic,” Gedda notes. She’s particularly enthused by some of the work that’s going into recycling technology to get us to high quality upcycled fibres.
She adds that what’s really needed in the industry today to make all of this a reality for mass brands however, is a coordination of innovation efforts so things don’t happen in siloes. “If we’re going to have fast acceleration of this, then whatever is invented needs to complement something else so you can get an effective chain – whether it’s materials or production – to happen. I think that from a challenge perspective, it’s the lack of coordination, or the lack of a bigger platform where all this collaboration can really happen, that’s the key thing I would point out.”
During the conversation, the duo also explore what will make the consumer really care about sustainability, how collaboration in the industry is critical, and just why AI is so pivotal to the future.
Catch up withall of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed byTheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.
H&M Foundation – the non-profit arm of the H&M Group – has launched the next round of its circularity awards, this time honing in on startups focused on digital innovations.
The fourth Global Change Award, will be open as usual to those breaking barriers with new materials and recycling – as has been seen with many previous winners – but there will be an extra eye on those using digital processes to make a significant impact on efficiency, planning and resource use.
“In previous years we ?ve seen brilliant and unexpected entries on recycling and new materials. Orange Fiber, Grape Leather and last year’s winner Crop-A-Porter are just some of the teams developing bold ideas and making great progress. And maybe more importantly, they make us rethink what a fabric is and what it can be made of. But to scale fashion’s transformation, new materials alone will not be enough,” explains H&M Foundation’s innovation lead, Erik Bang.
He pushes instead for those thinking about digitalization for the entire supply chain – from making raw materials to a garment’s end of life. “Digitalization has the potential to disrupt at the root, reinvent how things are done and help producers, sellers and customers to become circular,” he comments.
Such a call comes at a time when the fashion industry is being increasingly held to account for the impact it has on the planet. Both the H&M brand and other players such as Burberry, for instance, have recently hit headlines for the vast volume of unsold inventory they have, and the lengths they’re going to in order to get rid of it.
“To speed up the shift to a circular fashion industry, we must find solutions changing how we buy, ship, produce, use, dye and design fashion garments,” Bang notes.
The Global Change Award is accordingly about impact and scalability. Five chosen winners each year receive a split of EUR 1m, and join a yearlong accelerator program. Previous years have seen over 8,000 entries from 151 countries.
Applications for this year’s entry are open until October 17, with the winners to be crowned at the Grand Award Ceremony in Stockholm City Hall in April 2019.
How are you thinking about circular innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.