Staged on the same day as the Global Climate Strike, Marni’s SS20 menswear show by Francesco Risso in Milan took place under a net of plastic waste. Standing under it, it seemed almost as if the role the fashion industry has played in the climate crisis had been made manifest

Of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic that have been produced since its invention just over a century ago, less than 10% has been recycled. However, the materiality of plastic, its manipulability, means it is an ideal fabric in many ways – longer wearing and better functioning.  

Circular solutions for the textile industry are essential to a better, more sustainable future and as part of that we are going to have to stop our reliance on petroleum and virgin plastics in fashion. Supporting brands which use recycled plastics in an environmentally sound way is one means of doing just that.  

The recently launched label Ponch uses 100% recycled plastics to make a range of graphic packable rainwear and accessories. Sophie Mollison and Alexander Edwards founded the brand following their move from sunny Australia to drizzly Margate in Kent. Edwards explains that for them, “Ponch is a platform from which we can create responsible, transparent fashion”. 

The unisex designs are made from post-consumer plastic bottles, certified by the Global Recycle Standard (GRS). And all their products are also PFC-free (per- and polyfluorinated chemicals which are used to make materials waterproof despite being environmentally hazardous). While currently they do not have a system in place for recycling the garments at the end of their life, they do say that they are looking into different options to avoid their products ending up in a landfill: whether that’s working with other companies who assist with recycling, or up-cycling it them themselves, so watch this space.

Using recycled plastics helps to not only lessen dependence on virgin plastics and petroleum, but also to stop toxic emissions from incinerators and prolong the life of materials.  Under the creative direction of Alessandro Michele, Gucci have begun a series of initiatives to reduce their reliance on oil-based synthetic fibres and virgin plastics. In 2015 they started using recycled plastic for the heels on their shoes and have also incorporated Newlife™, a polyester fibre made from 100% recycled bottles, into their ready-to-wear collections. And in 2018 they became the first luxury brand to use Econyl®

This nylon fabric is made entirely out of recycled plastics: abandoned fishing nets, carpeting and textile waste. For every 10,000 tons of Econyl® created, roughly 70,000 barrels of petroleum are saved. And it is completely recyclable. At the scale of Gucci’s business, their lead is critical to show others it can be done.

The independent label Stay Wild Swim was founded in 2018 by fitness and lifestyle influencers Zanna Van Dijk and Natalie Glaze, in London and their neutral-toned swimwear is also made using only recycled materials, predominantly Econyl®. 

Other brands, such as Prada, have swiftly followed suit. Under the direction of their new head of marketing and communication, Lorenzo Bertelli, Prada’s Re-Nylon initiative began in the summer of 2019. Using Econyl® in place of nylon, they launched a series of six sustainable reincarnations of their iconic 1980s Linea Rossa backpacks.

It is imperative that we start making changes: being sustainable is no longer a luxury. But it also doesn’t mean shutting down production and declaring fashion over... It is a space in which to innovate: less conspicuous and more conscious  consumption.