According to the World Bank, clothing production accounts for approximately 10 percent of global carbon emissions. That’s more than what the aviation and shipping industries combined. Fashion factories also consume a large amount of water during production – around 900 million cubic meters per year, to be specific – and generate 20% of the world’s wastewater. As consumers throw out old clothes and buy new ones, our planet’s landfills continue to grow.
All of this presents a dilemma for consumers. As we are all being encouraged to get electric cars, install heat pumps and solar panels in our homes, reduce our dependence on single-use plastic, and avoid an environmental catastrophe, we face the possibility of a new relationship to the clothes that we wear.
It is not easy. Although you can purchase less frequently and more carefully, the pressures to be professional and socially attractive are great. The clothes we wear are a way to express ourselves. Reducing consumption will not stop that expression. While buying an electric vehicle is exciting, fitting solar panels feel very modern. However, the prospect of wearing the same clothing for months, or even years, is not appealing, even if you trade cheap and disposable pieces for more durable and expensive items.
However, we are in the age of the circular economy, and new entrepreneurs have opened the doors to fashion. DePop in Britain, which was sold to Etsy recently for $1.6billion, demonstrated that secondhand clothing can still be sold to the next generation via a peer-to-peer platform.
Make the Most of What You Have
But secondhand clothes don’t have to be the only thing in town. Jill Chivers, author, and entrepreneur encourages her readers to make the best of what they have. Bianca Rangecroft is one of the many who have adopted this idea.
Rangecroft describes herself to be a typical young analyst, recalling her career in investment banking. “I was a shoe-lover and loved fashion.”
At that moment, she saw a problem that her colleagues and herself shared. While there was much clothing shopping going on, a lot was thrown out or not used. People weren’t making the most of what they had. Even women with high salaries complained they did not have enough clothes for presentations or client meetings.
It’s a 21st-century problem. However, it’s also a potential market opportunity. Rangecroft came up with the idea for Wearing, a tool that allows women to use their clothes as stylists online.
Rangecroft started building the tech internally after conducting focus group discussions. It was also challenging to find VC investors. “There was a lot more interest than there was in the VCs’ portfolios. There was a lot to be done. It would take more convincing them.
A gender divide was also evident. VCs tended to be predominantly male, so they didn’t see a significant problem that warranted backing a solution. Rangecroft decided to postpone fund-fundraising because the valuation was too high.
It was 2020 during the pandemic. Where launched in beta in 2021. Customers can digitize their wardrobes, organize items into “collections,” and even sell clothes that they don’t need.
Who is the user base, and why? Evidence to date shows that the user base may not be as diverse as we expected. Rangecroft states that they thought women between 30 and 45 would be the most desirable, with high disposable incomes. “65 percent of our audience comes from Generation Z.”
It shouldn’t surprise us. The circular economy, in fashion terms, has been around longer than most people realize, not least in the form of vintage shops or their less trendy cousins at charity shops. These shops have been a popular destination for younger people, but they may be open to anyone who wants to most of their existing sartorial assets.
Rangecroft believes that Wearing can attract women across all demographics because of its wide range of options. Some enjoy the convenience of digitizing clothes and matching them up with outfits. Others love the recommendation aspect. Others can profit from the sale or repair options.
The question is: Is Wearing just a style advisory service based on past purchases, or can it play a part in creating a fashion ecosystem that is less wasteful?
Well, it’s probably a combination of both. Sustainability and circularity were the core of the company’s offering. Any way that allows us all to buy less and re-use more easily has some positive impact on our environment. The app has been downloaded more 30,000 times, and users upload on average 35 items of clothing. This is a great start but not enough to save the planet.
However, there’s a more significant point. Businesses and economic models are essential if we want to see changes in human consumption behavior. Although the individual impact is limited, it can have a significant effect on the overall economy. However, collectively the result of eco-friendly companies could be even more critical.
This is an area that is increasingly attractive to entrepreneurs. Stylebook and Save Your Wardrobe both cover the category shop your wardrobe. Vinted, Depop, and Rent the Runway address the secondhand marketplace. Good on You, however, allows you to verify the sustainability of potential purchases.
There is at least a business opportunity. The circular economy’s ability to gain traction will have an impact on the environment.