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The best sustainable fashion initiatives of 2019

Fashion brands and retailers upped their focus on going green this year, launching sustainable initiatives that ranged from purposeful store designs to recycled collections, while MPs also stepped up their focus on the industry’s impact on the environment.

Primark’s sustainable cotton mission

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Primark announced in August that it will train 160,000 cotton farmers across China, India, Pakistan and China in environmentally friendly production methods.

The scheme, to be completed by 2022, is part of Primark’s sustainable cotton programme, which targets the use of 100% sustainable cotton in all its product categories.

Each farmer that goes through the three-year programme is trained on the most appropriate farming techniques for their land, from seed selection, sowing, soil, water, pesticide and pest management, to picking, fibre quality, grading and storage of the harvested cotton.

The collection comprises one pair of skinny jeans in three different washes: indigo, black and light blue, which are available in UK and European stores for £13. Primark also launched its first-ever range of jeans made from 100% sustainable cotton in March – made using cotton purchased directly from farmers participating in its Sustainable Cotton Programme.

Primark said the launch forms part of its move to ensure that all cotton used in its products is sustainably sourced. 

Timberland’s ’purpose-led’ store design

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Timberland unveiled its brand-new sustainable store concept on London’s Carnaby Street last month, offering customers an “urban oasis” in the heart of the capital.

Designed to bring nature into the city and highlight the retailer’s wider sustainability efforts, the 2,594 sq ft shop features materials made from recycled industrial waste, a living green wall and trees, as well as information about its community projects and product-led technological innovations.

It forms part of Timberland’s brand evolution to tell customers “who we are and what we are about”, vice-president of global marketing Argu Secilmis told Drapers.

London marks the first of the new “purpose-led” store design, which all future stores will be modelled on.

This year, Timberland also committed to plant 50 million trees around the world by 2025.

John Lewis trials sustainability scheme

John Lewis is encouraging customers to think and act more ethically by piloting eight new sustainability practices in its Oxford store.

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Announced in October, these include the removal of 5p plastic bags and click-and-collect packaging; recycling customers’ unwanted hangers; offering fashion buy back; and replacing bubble wrap with recyclable packaging.

The focus is on reducing the amount of plastic and packaging that goes to landfill and comes in response to customers’ growing awareness of their impact on the planet, John Lewis said. Stephen Cawley, head of sustainability, added that customer feedback will help to determine what practices John Lewis introduces in other shops.

Farfetch’s revamped start-up programme


For its second-ever Dream Assembly programme, luxury fashion platform Farfetch placed a huge emphasis on sustainability.

Designed to support budding fashion technology businesses and entrepreneurs, the scheme invites shortlisted start-ups to partake in a seven-week programme, where they will receive mentorship, education, early-stage funding and access to investors.

This year’s cohort had to demonstrate a clear focus on sustainability or promote social good and community values in response to the industry’s increasing concern.

The eight chosen sustainable start-ups were: Thrift+, Good on You, Sozie, To The Market, EON Group, Material World, Panoply City and Save Your Wardrobe.

Farfetch also announced its partnership with vintage accessory and clothing curator Upteam – a Hong Kong-based Dream Assembly alumnus – to pilot a resale programme for luxury handbags.

MPs back sustainable fashion

MPs launched the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Sustainable Clothing and Textiles in July, signifying an important step in encouraging brands, retailers and the wider industry to become more ethically-focussed.

Led by chair Anne Main MP, the APPG is supported by retailers, industry experts and recycling bodies.

It outlined plans to analyse industry-based evidence and advise government on action that needs to be taken across the clothing and textiles sector. This will cover topics such as supply chains, material usage and consumer behaviours.

The group was formed after government rejected all recommendations in the environmental audit committee’s “Fixing Fashion” report.

Anne Main lost her St Albans seat in the December general election to Liberal Democrat Daisy Cooper. The APPG is yet to appoint a new chair.

Kering’s commitment to carbon neutrality


Luxury fashion group Kering is on a mission to become carbon neutral within its own operations and across its entire supply chain, including its fashion houses Balenciaga, Gucci, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen.

The group-wide pledge will involve avoiding and reducing annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and offsetting all emissions since 2018, as well as supporting the conservation of forests and biodiversity around the world.

Kering’s plans include: implementing Kering Standards for raw materials and manufacturing processes; becoming more energy efficient and upping its focus on renewable energy.

Zalando’s venture into re-usable packaging

Sustainability was high on German etailer Zalando’s agenda during 2019.

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As well as announcing its new sustainability strategy, including becoming carbon neutral in its own operations, all deliveries and returns with immediate effect, it launched a reusable packaging trial in September.

The aim was to see how Zalando, which already uses 100% recycled paper boxes, could integrate re-usable packaging into its existing logistics processes.

During the period customers received their orders in shipping bags, which they were able to return to Zalando to use again via an enclosed return label.

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