Why on-demand production and no waste fashion is so important
We all realize that the fashion industry produces an alarming amount of junk. Many items of clothing end up in the trash or are incinerated without ever being worn. Even when clothing is cut to size, there are leftovers that are disposed of unused.
This is precisely what is avoided with sustainable approaches such as “on-demand production” and “no waste mode”.
The problem: Too much textile waste in the fashion industry
According to Statista, we buy about 56 pieces of clothing a year. Around 620,000 tons of textiles end up in old clothing bags or containers every year. When clothing is cut, around 104,000 tons of fabric scraps are left over. Fast fashion brings out up to 24 collections a year with entertaining fashion trends, which after a short period of time allow the mountains of old clothes to grow. And what makes us particularly sad: Due to overproduction, goods that have already been produced end up in the trash before they are sold. It is not possible to get production versus sales figures that are reliable. Of course, big model labels are keeping a low profile. But what is certain is that mountains of new, unsold textiles are thrown away every day.
Surely you know these horrible pictures from the Atacama desert in Chile: Used and unsold clothes from global overproduction end up there. In the port city of Iquique, around 59,000 tons of old clothes are dumped every year. Some is sold to the capital Santiago or to neighboring countries of Chile. The rest ends up in the desert as hazardous waste. A catastrophe for the environment.
Image source: https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/amerika/muellhalde-atacama-wueste-101.html
When we dispose of our old clothes in containers, in used clothing stores or directly with textile recyclers, they first go through the sorting process. They are then either processed and sold for recycling or they go directly to recycling companies. Since they usually do not know which fibers or chemicals were used in the fabrics, it is difficult to recycle old textiles. It is also technically very demanding to recycle clothing in a high-quality manner and use it to produce new fibers. Therefore, it is usually processed into cleaning rags, insulation material or painter's fleece. It is estimated that less than one percent of end-of-life textiles are recycled back into new fibers for clothing. So old clothes are not really recycled but rather downcycled. If they're not even fit for that, they're burned.
And: Every piece of clothing in our wardrobe uses resources such as raw materials, water, energy and labour. If the garment ends up in the trash, these resources are wasted. In addition to overproduction, returns are also a problem: if a retailer receives a return, it must first be checked carefully and then repackaged. It is often cheaper to dispose of the returned goods directly. As a result, products that are as good as new and still usable unfortunately end up in the garbage. And so here again: wasted resources and mountains of rubbish. We do not want to go into detail here about the devastating ecological effects of chemicals, pesticides and released microplastics.
In this blog post, we are concerned with the questions: How can we reduce or avoid textile waste? What can we at Hoofment do about it? What sustainable approaches is the fashion industry developing? What tips can we give you as a consumer?
No Waste Mode at Hoofment
When cutting clothing, there are leftovers that have to be disposed of. Approximately 15 - 30 percent of the fabrics from clothing production become unused residues as soon as they are cut. If these can no longer be recycled, for example because they are too small to sew something out of them, they have to be recycled in different ways depending on the material.
At Hoofment we use a lot of leftover trimmings to make our upcycled products such as our scrunchies and headbands. We create new products from textile leftovers that would normally end up in the trash. This means that we always apply: upcycling before disposal.
But it would be ideal not to produce any leftovers in the first place. For this, however, the cutting template must be such that there are no gaps between the individual cuts. The "No Waste Mode" - also called "Zero Waste Mode" - is based on this method. No Waste or Zero Waste refers to a designer technique that avoids the waste of fabrics and thus textile waste during the design and pattern construction.
Of course, this means a special challenge for the design, since the dimensions of the fabric have to match the dimensions of the desired garment. This limits the shape of the design, but it doesn't have to be less attractive. It is a worthwhile task for every designer to find attractive solutions here.
Our no-waste pullover made from organic cotton (Hoofment Shop) is produced without any fabric waste, since the pattern has no gaps. All pattern pieces are placed together so that there are no gaps and all sections interlock like jigsaw puzzle pieces. You can put the fabric together and sew it up completely without leaving any scraps of fabric. You can see the process of creating our No Waste sweater on Instagram in our highlights. And to make it even more sustainable, this sweater is also produced on-demand.
On-demand production at Hoofment
As a sustainable company, what can we do to avoid overproduction?
First of all, we only have small quantities of our products made and then prefer to order more - even if this means that not every product is always in stock in our shop at all times. This is the only way we can offer our equestrian fashion in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.
In addition, some products (our No Waste jumper, our scrunchies, our halter protectors and our headbands) are only made "on demand". We only produce what has been ordered. Each piece of clothing is sewn individually for the individual customer. This means there are no remainders. As all on-demand products are handcrafted in our Hoofment Office, only a limited number can be produced in a given period. As a result, we need a certain lead time for the production of on-demand products. We therefore usually need 3 – 4 weeks for these pre-order products to be shipped.
Fashion labels that offer on-demand products are not about producing mass-produced goods quickly and cheaply. It's about offering fashion in a more personal, unique and, above all, more sustainable way. The great positive feedback we receive for our on-demand products at Hoofment regularly confirms that this approach is valued.
Advantages of on-demand production:
- No waste of old clothes through overproduction: Only as much is produced as is sold.
- Resource-saving production: no disposal of old clothes and therefore no waste of resources.
- Lower return rate: The products that are only produced to order and are individually made usually meet the customer's expectations and are therefore returned less frequently.
- Smaller collections: New products are offered regularly and you can adapt to current trends and customer requests more spontaneously.
- Smaller inventories: Since the products are only made to order and shipped directly, they do not need to be stored.
- Short supply chains: The products are manufactured and shipped directly in the company.
5 tips on how your no waste wardrobe could work
- Buy clothes sustainably: Buy your clothes more often from fair fashion labels, in second-hand shops, at flea markets or look for online second-hand offers. Buy from sustainable fashion companies that value non-toxic production, fair working conditions and sustainable raw materials. And also pay attention to no waste fashion and on-demand products when buying. Also, avoid impulse purchases and don't be tempted by discount battles like Black Friday. In general, the longer and more frequently a piece of clothing is worn, the more sustainable it is.
- Upcycling instead of throwing away: You don't like your clothes anymore? It no longer fits you or is broken - but is it actually too good to throw it away? You can reuse many items of clothing from your wardrobe - even if you are not a professional at the sewing machine. According to the motto "make new from old", mend, repair or beautify your clothes or transform them into new products (cleaning rags, make-up removal pads, etc.). You can find many tutorials on the internet for this or you can contact sewing friends.
- Swap instead of buying: Invite friends and acquaintances to a clothing swap party. Ask them to bring a predetermined number of clothes to swap. In this way, each of you can renew your wardrobe - sustainably and free of charge. There are also public clothing swap parties. You can find dates and events, for example, at the Greenpeace project hemdenSwap.de .
- Zero Waste Hero: If you want to get even more involved, become a Zero Waste Hero and log in to zerowastemap.org. https://gonature.de/projects/werde-zero-waste-hero
- Donate clothing sensibly: If you do want to dispose of a piece of clothing, don't just throw it in the trash and if possible don't throw it in the nearest used clothing container. Donate your clothes in a sensible way, for example by giving them to a clothing store near you. The organization wheredamit.org is helpful . It shows you quickly and easily which social institution in your area needs your clothing donation.