From Fashion to Fasteners, Responsible Offerings in Apparel Expand
Steps toward creating a more-responsible fashion industry are being taken from all segments of the supply chain to clean up one of the most-pollutive industries on the planet and satisfy the demand of consumers.
Fitchburg, Mass.–headquartered Avery Dennison Fastener Solutions, the materials-science and packaging company, recently unveiled its bio-PP apparel-tag fastener, which is completely biodegradable. The introduction of this product follows the April release of the company’s Ecotach tag fastener fully made from recycled plastic.
“Innovation is an essential element of Avery Dennison as is providing sustainable solutions. With the fastener solution, we wanted to focus on the innovation in sustainability, especially with plastic,” said Dan Riendeau, senior marketing manager of global packaging and retail. “Fasteners are everywhere. We wanted to see if we could pursue alternative solutions to the plastic tags for apparel. When you add them all up, it makes a difference.”
The result of this diligent work is the company’s own blend of polypropylene, which will degrade in less than one year on soil. After breaking down, the fastener will leave behind no toxic substances nor any microplastics. Following its verification by the third-party-agency Impact Solutions, Avery Dennison marketed the bio-PP fastener as biodegradable in less than a year, and during trials the company’s team found that the product could vanish within seven months under the appropriate conditions.
“The biggest challenge we faced was managing the skepticism of a truly biodegradable product. There is always this perception that it degrades but will leave microplastics. Our third-party testing agency has been able to provide and show the data that our fasteners do not leave microplastics behind even when left in a garden or a yard or a park. They will degrade into absolutely nothing—carbon dioxide, water and biomass,” Riendeau said. “It’s good for the environment and it is truly breakthrough technology.”
For the New York athleisure and loungewear brand Grey State, manufacturing responsibly has been a part of its core mission since 2015, when it was founded by Saima Chowdhury. Grey State’s commitment to the large umbrella of sustainability led it to adopt the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for its goods, which are manufactured in Bangladesh through the Chowdhury family’s vertical-production facilities. From ensuring the health and well-being of workers, supporting education for girls and special-needs children, and adopting ecologically sound production practices to conserve energy, reduce waste and maintain a clean water supply, Chowdhury takes seriously the task at hand.
“With sustainability, there is social and environmental on your supply side and, on your demand side, you have to think about how much you are ordering and how much stuff you are bringing in and what excess are you creating in the whole supply chain,” Chowdhury said. “We’ve been getting more engagement from the consumer asking us about our impact and what we are doing.”
In addition to working with organizations such as Oeko-Tex, BSCI, BetterWork and WRAP—through which Grey State is gold certified—the company focused on a particular area of sustainability for 2020. For Spring, the company introduced two styles that were created from recycled fabric, and for Fall Grey State increased that to 30 percent of the collection. Moving forward, at least 30 percent of Grey State’s collections, which are sized 0–14 and retail from $48 to $138, will comprise recycled fabric.
After launching its 4Earth collection earlier in 2020, the Culver City, Calif., shoe brand Blowfish Malibu expanded its sustainable initiative into its Fall/Winter 2020 collection. In addition to being made from recycled plastic bottles, the collection benefits the ocean-conservation advocacy group Oceana with $1 from every 4Earth shoe purchase donated to the cause. Karen Bueno, vice president of marketing at Blowfish Malibu, explained that making changes in one collection could lay the groundwork for building a cleaner industry.
“When we decided to embark on the 4Earth collection, all we knew was that, as a brand, we wanted to be better. We knew we wouldn’t be able to make an impact overnight, but we felt it was important to start. We wanted to be more environmentally conscious about what we were doing as a company,” Bueno said. “We know that an estimated 300 million pairs of shoes end up in landfills every year and fully acknowledge that the footwear industry is part of that problem.”
Next steps for sustainability at Blowfish Malibu include examining its packaging options.
“One of the biggest changes we are currently working on is the removal of all single-use plastics from our shoebox packaging,” Bueno said. “We are looking to remove all of the single-use plastic entirely as well as to only use recycled-paper materials. We hope that this change will fully be in place by the end of the year.”
As an organization whose focus is advocating for the reduction of plastic use across industries, Oceana recognizes that taking change step by step is important. Jon Frank, director of global corporate and celebrity partnerships at Oceana, sees potential for these gradual changes.
“We recognize that transitioning to a zero-waste economy isn’t as simple as flipping a switch, so it’s important for brands to design with a focus on reducing plastic and waste,” Frank said. “Products that reduce reliance on virgin plastic are a nice start and can build momentum for moving toward zero waste.”
For Bueno, the push toward sustainability has to be industrywide, and recognizing weaknesses within a commitment to sustainability is a good start. By starting with a particular area, Bueno feels change becomes easier to build upon.
“As an industry, we need to recognize that we are part of the problem and that we need to do our part to make suitable changes for future generations,” Bueno said. “This is not an overnight process, but steady, consistent change is meaningful, and we’re not afraid to start.”