According to Liz Ricketts, an expert in the second-hand clothing trade in West Africa, 40 percent of the clothing that make its way to the shores of Ghana, ultimately becomes waste. These are clothes that you and I donate to overrun charity systems or dead stock from brands, that more often than not will contribute to landfill in a poorer country. The biggest contributor to this is fast fashion, but yet, high-end and luxury companies are still a cause for concern when it comes to sustainability.
Nowadays, we have been forced to look hard at our shopping habits with many savvy consumers looking to vintage and preloved outlets. This week, both Gucci and Levi’s launched initiatives to combat just that in a bid to lower its own carbon footprint and our own in the process.
On Monday, it was announced that Gucci has teamed up with luxury consignment store The RealReal for a circular economy partnership which will assist in persuading customers to buy preloved goods. Throughout the remainder of 2020, each time a customer purchases or consigns a Gucci product, two companies will plant a tree through nonprofit, One Tree Planted.
In addition, Levi’s launched its new buyback program this week in the US. The local program allows customers to trade in old pieces in exchange for a gift card equivalent to a portion of each item’s perceived value. The preloved clothes are cleaned and put up for sale on the Levi’s website, where consumers can easily purchase vintage denim pieces between $30 and $150 USD.
Instead of buying less, these initiatives simply ensure people are consuming less new product which would hope to drive down demand while continually promoting the brand. But what good are these strategies actually doing?
According to The RealReal, resale demand for Gucci has risen by 19 percent in 2020. And it is believed the consignment of Gucci clothing on the platform has already “saved” 230 metric tons of carbon and more than 10 million litres of water. This is in comparison to the environmental costs of manufacturing those items for the first time.
As for the American denim giant, Chief Marketing Officer of Levi’s Jennifer Sey stated, “Repurposing and repairing clothes require minimal additional energy input, no water, and no dyes to make more jeans. Buying a used pair of Levi’s jeans through SecondHand saves approximately 80 percent of the CO2 emissions and 700 grams of waste compared to buying a new pair of Levi’s jeans.”
For meaningful change, these initiatives will have to be more widespread across the fashion industry and garner more consumers. It’s a start, and we like where it might lead.