The best way to make your fashion habit sustainable is to simply wear clothes that already exist, whether they are found in your closet, a secondhand store, rented, or anywhere in between. But whenever you do purchase new clothing or shoes, we recommend shopping from sustainable and circular fashion companies that have their own recycling programs. That way, when your clothing wears out, you can send it back to the brand, and trust that it will stay out of the landfill, and instead be recycled into something new.
Keep reading for a look into the true meaning behind the phrases closed loop and circular in regards to fashion, as well as a list of a few of our favorite eco-conscious fashion brands that have their own recycling programs.
What is the meaning of closed loop or circular fashion?
Envision a closed loop, or a circle — that is what the lifespan of a product at a closed loop or circular company is designed to do, with both phrases evoking the same meaning.
To create a true closed loop, a company must offer to take back products that customers have outgrown or outworn, and either refurbish, resell, or recycle them into new products. Basically, a circular company works to keep its products out of landfills, and takes responsibility for the items it sells, instead of leaving that responsibility to the consumer. As more and more companies do this, we move closer to a circular fashion economy.
A big part of truly being circular is being sustainable and ethical in the design and manufacturing of your products. For instance, H&M offers a Garment Collecting program that supposedly aims to “close the loop.” However, H&M is also a fast fashion company that produces clothing at high rates, and it does not offer protection or fair wages to factory workers, according to Good On You. Therefore, H&M’s recycling program is not enough to classify H&M as truly circular.
That said, here’s a look into a few sustainable fashion brands with their own recycling programs.
In February 2022, womenswear brand Reformation launched RefRecycling, powered by SuperCircle, in which customers of the eco-conscious fashion brand Reformation can return any well-worn Ref goods (from clothing to shoes) to the company. Customers can do this at U.S. retail stores, or via mail after requesting a shipping label online. In exchange, Reformation will give customers a credit for future purchases ($25 for shoes, $15 for jeans, and $10 for sweaters and activewear).
SuperCircle will recycle all collected products into fibers to be used in new products, and participants can make an account here to find out if the pieces they return wind up being upcycled, recycled, or downcycled. That said, this program is meant for clothes that are not really wearable anymore. If you have any Reformation clothes you’ve simply outgrown, the brand recommends sending them to thredUP, for which you’ll receive a Ref credit.
“Beast-free” footwear brand Native Shoes makes eco-conscious and vegan footwear for children and adults, and offers its own recycling program called the Native Shoes Remix Project, run in partnership with Zappos for Good.
Here’s how it works: used Native Shoes can be mailed to the company via UPS with a free label, or dropped in a drop box at a partner store (they are all listed on Native’s website). Then, they will be ground into pellets, remixed into a building material, and used to build playground flooring, insulation, seating, and more.
For Days is a circular fashion company that focuses on staple fashion pieces. For Days has its own recycling program, run in partnership with Recover. As part of the program, you can send any worn For Days clothing you no longer need back to the company, in exchange for Closet Cash, which you can use to buy new For Days products. The company will then either recycle or revamp and resell the items on its website.
For Days also offers a Take Back Bag, which you can purchase, fill up with clothing by any brand and in any condition, and mail it in to be either resold, recycled into new fibers, or downcycled into shoddy to make insulation, etc. As soon as you make your purchase, For Days will add a credit to your account of the same value as what you spent on the bag.
Sneaker company Thousand Fell claims that its fully recyclable and vegan sneakers are “made to last” with sustainable materials like corn waste, coconut husk, and recycled bottles, but “built to recycle.”
Like Reformation, Thousand Fell has its own “experiential recycling program” with SuperCircle. When purchasing Thousand Fell shoes, make an account and pledge to recycle your sneakers once they’re worn out. At that point, mail your shoes in to be recycled, and you’ll receive a $20 Thousand Fell credit toward your next purchase.