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Stories from Style

Eco-conscious Threads

by Voices Wellness 09 Oct 2020

To be fashion forward today, is also to be climate kind. By ANGELINE NEO. 

To be sartorially progressive now, is also to be climate positive, as more retailers step up efforts to do right by the environment. On October 12, Swedish fast-fashion label, H&M unveiled Looop, at one of its Stockholm stores. The container-size garment-to-garment machine transforms unwanted clothing into new wearable favourites. Its aim: To help customers visualise better, how old textiles still have value and should not go to waste. 

Turning old textiles into new wearables can help counter the disposable nature of fast-fashion. (Photo source H&M) 

According to H&M, it is part of a bigger brand ambition to become fully circular and climate positive. This is done by innovating materials and processes, while also inspiring customers to keep their garments in use, for as long as possible. Fast-fashion’s way of making it up to the climate. It is not the first time that H&M is leading the sustainable fashion movement. In 2013, it was the first fashion retailer with a global garment collecting program that encouraged consumers to recycle old clothes, in exchange for discounts on new buys. This time round however, customers can see how its Looop machine processes old textiles into something new. 

Like a bit of recycling theatre, the garments are cleaned, shredded into fibres, and spun into new yarn, before being knitted into clothing. While the company says that some sustainably sourced virgin materials may be used in the process, this is minimised as much as possible. And because it is a waterless and chemical-free system, it significantly lowers environmental impact, as compared to making garments from scratch. 

H&M’s Looop is a garment-to-garment recycling machine that transforms old clothes into new wearable favourites. (Photo source H&M)

A small fee applies. It’s 100 Swedish krona (about S$15) if you’re a loyalty club member of the brand, or 150 Swedish Krona (about S$23) for non-members. These proceeds will fund the research and development of more sustainable materials. As of 2019, 57 per cent of H&M’s materials are either recycled or sourced in a more sustainable way. The goal is for all of it to be as such by 2030. 

Bio-based resources

In the works is a subscription-based sneaker programme by Swiss running brand, On. The Alpine brand recently teased the release of its Cyclon running shoes, that will only be out in Fall 2021. Made primarily from castor beans, and from a single cut of fabric that ensures zero-waste, it is positioned as the shoe you will never own. 

That’s right. For S$45 a month, you get a pair of runners that you can exchange for new ones, as often as you like. 

You will never own these Cyclon runners by Swiss athletic gear brand, On. They are only available via a monthly subscription. (Photo source On)     

Lightweight, dye-free, and durable, the teaser campaign says that the bio-based shoes are made for “high performance at high speed, whether you’re training or racing on the road.” Read optimised for flexibility, stability and a cool, supportive fit. Even then, you are advised to trade them in when you have clocked 400km. That’s 13km of daily running; or 32.5 times around a standard running track, every day.

Like H&M, On is committed to a sustainability vision. Caspar Coppetti, the company’s co-founder says: “Nature is not only where we play, it’s also our source of inspiration and above all, it’s our home. So of course, we always wanted to protect it.”

A sustainability issue

By making the Cyclon shoes available solely through a monthly subscription, it ensures a recycling loop. Every pair of old Cyclons returned directly to the company will go into making new ones, and other products. This disrupts the classic make-use-dispose linear model (of most products). Typically, material manufacturing process accounts for up to 80 per cent of a product’s footprint. Another reason why On is focused on increasing the recycled content in its gear. With Cyclon, less virgin material is used, and less waste is produced to make forward strides that are better for our planet.       

Why not change your shoes less frequently then? Increased risk of injury. All running shoes have a natural wear-and-tear cycle. How often you run, terrain (whether inside or outdoors, on smooth tarmac, trail, track or a mix), your physical built, and running style, can wear down arch support and cushioning over time, or more accurately, distance. When the integrity of a shoe is affected, it can cause damage to the body. It is akin to driving a car with bald tires. It can run, but not so safely. 

Moreover, the Cyclon “is engineered to perform to elite level competition”. Translation: Lots of distance running, over different terrain conditions – this is a performance athlete’s shoe. 

Made primarily from castor beans, the Cyclon will also be a hallmark of sustainability and performance, says Olivier Bernhard, On’s co-founder and leader of the Innovation Team.  

The monthly plan may not seem like such a great deal for the average runner, but On wants to challenge the status quo of what was previously thought about sustainability, performance, and ownership. The real ask here is not a subscription to shoes but rather, a more sustainable future for the planet. 

Announcing the launch plans ahead is intentional, On wants to know who’s in on its goal of zero waste. Pre-registration (on its website) is open now, with a one-time payment of S$45. This serves as the first monthly payment, and closer to Cyclon’s 2021 launch, a confirmation will be sent to see if you are still interested. Also, the shoes only get shipped when orders hit critical mass, that is, when the minimum demand in your region is met. This is to offset the carbon footprint of shipping. Again, this to be as sustainably minded as possible, but is it a big ask? 

Only time will tell, and the dollars may swing the vote.  

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