5 ways companies are making gorgeous clothes that are the opposite of fast fashion.
It's easy to get a little carried away when shopping — after all, so many new clothes are so cheap these days.
Most of us are at least a little guilty of taking advantage. In the United States, we are buying five times more clothing than we did in the 1980s.
I mean, if you could buy five shirts for the price of one, why wouldn't you? The world of fast fashion gives us more options to mix up our wardrobes whenever we feel like it. And if you're like me, more clothes means not having to do laundry as often.
Cheap new clothes — and more of them — can feel awesome in the moment. But our trend-of-the-moment shopping habits are actually doing damage in a number of ways. One of the problems: We are barely recycling any of our leftover clothes.
The average American throws away about 80 pounds of textile waste every year.
It's no question that number will continue to grow unless we start donating them (hello, thrift stores!) or buy less. As more information comes out about the harm fast fashion is causing to the planet, consumers and companies are starting to think twice.
People are beginning to see through the craze that is fast fashion and into a more thoughtful and eco-friendly approach.
Here are five unique ways products and materials are being reused to make clothing and accessories today:
1. Food ... that you can wear?
As if coffee wasn't already the best, now it can be worn.
I can't even fathom the number of times I've dumped out coffee grounds after making a cup of joe. When you multiply that times the millions and millions of people who make coffee every day, that's a lot of coffee grounds going to waste.
Singtex, a company from Taiwan, is turning those wasted grounds into fabric for clothes. They use an innovative technology named S.Café that incorporates coffee grounds into fibers to help control odors and protect fabrics from ultraviolet rays.
It's official: Coffee has superpowers.
You know what else does? Coconut. Coconut is known for a lot of uses, such as milk, oil, and suntan lotion. The company Cocona has found another way to use it: by turning coconut shells into yarns and fibers.
The threads they create through activated carbon from coconut shells provide a lightweight and comfortable product that can stand the test of time in a variety of products.
Other foods are being used to create clothes, too, like sour milk and wine. A sour milk dress! Can you imagine? Maybe someday we'll all be wearing food. Can you turn Cheetos into yarn?
2. You can now take your airplane seat everywhere you go.
When Southwest Airlines decided to redesign their cabins in 2014, that meant getting rid of 80,000 leather seats.
Looptworks, a company from Portland, Oregon, knew they could put those seats to good use. They teamed up with Southwest to turn their old leather seat covers into fashionable products like purses and duffle bags. And fashionable they are.
Even better is the process of making them. The Baltimore Sun reports that the company is working with Garten Services, a nonprofit that trains and employs adults with disabilities, to deconstruct and clean the seats before turning them into bags.
3. Dumpster fashion is the new black.
Artist and environmental advocate Nancy Judd is turning heads with her business Recycle Runway. Whether she's creating clothes from old Barack Obama campaign flyers, aluminum cans, crime scene tape, or even the vinyl top of a convertible, Nancy's designs always have one thing in common: They're pure garbage.
She says she got into "dumpster couture" when she realized that art and fashion could be used to raise the public's environmental consciousness. And she's stuck to that idea over the years, using all of her creations to educate about conservation.
She told The Wall Street Journal that she once spent 400 hours unspooling cassettes and crocheting the crinkled tape into a fake-fur coat — taking a very literal approach to the term slow fashion.
4. Your clothes could come from the big blue sea.
A massive project is underway in the Mediterranean, and you may see people wearing it someday.
It's called "Upcycling the Oceans" and is an undertaking by the group Ecoalf. Their goal? To transform the plastic debris found in the Mediterranean into thread to make fabric.
They're seeing a lot of success, having already collected 39 tons of garbage since September 2015.
They hope to show that not only is cleaning the oceans possible, but the materials collected can be recycled into pellets, thread, fabric, and other products.
5. Using only what large manufactures leave behind.
Advancements in technology have made fast fashion the norm: large scale production at ridiculously fast speeds. That model, while bringing in huge profits, comes with a whole host of problems. One of them that often gets overlooked is all the material wasted in production.
The average garment factory wastes up to 40% of its perfectly usable materials. Cambodia-based company tonlé is holding them accountable — and creating a smart business out of it.
Tonlé takes the scraps that manufactures don't use and turns them into beautiful products. About 90% of their materials come from big garment factories, and 10% are made from local and sustainable suppliers.
By doing what the large manufactures won't, they are helping to offset the huge global impact fast fashion has on the planet while showing what true sustainability means.
Is fast fashion on its way out? Probably not. But it's neat to see people creating — and demanding — fashion that's a little gentler on the planet.
Not everyone can whip up a dress from coffee grounds or turn their old Paula Abdul cassette tapes into an outfit. But these creative approaches to fashion are a great way to get people to think outside of the mass-produced clothing racks, and about how to reuse things they already own.
After all, clothes are way more fun when they're unique — and Earth-friendly.