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Drapers Sustainable Fashion 2020: 'Keep re-evaluating everything you thought you know'

Carmel McQuaid, head of sustainable business at Marks & Spencer, revealed how the high street retailer has been “shwopping” – reusing, regenerating and recycling clothing – for more than a decade, to transform fashion waste.

In 2008, M&S joined forces with charity Oxfam to form a partnership called Shwopping, which allows customers to swap their unwanted clothes. Customers can bring an unwanted item of clothing into an M&S store, even if it is not from the retailer. 

Since the partnership began, more than 34 million garments have been donated in M&S and Oxfam shops, worth an estimated £22m for Oxfam.

McQuaid told delegates today at the Drapers Sustainable Fashion Forum that partnering with Oxfam has helped protect the planet: “We wanted to partner with someone who thought really carefully. It was a strategic choice on who we should partner with to help customers to get rid of their clothes.”

She went on to give her top tips for businesses wanting to be sustainable:

  • “Don’t be paralysed by the quest for perfection.”
  • “Keep re-evaluating everything you thought you know every three to six months, because the world changes.”

She added: “There’s a lot where it is still years away in terms of innovation and development. We definitely have to find new, better ways to connect with customers.

“We’re quite excited about the interest now in sustainable fashion.”

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