It's a question we get asked surprisingly often. Which makes sense. It seems like a no-brainer right? Do we want to save 150 liters of water on a pair of socks, or don't we? Why wouldn't every clothing company want to do that? And why would this tiny brand I found on Instagram be doing this and my regular brand isn't?
Well, the short answer is: it's because of us, the consumer. You see, the big players of the textile industry aren't scared of us. They don't think we are smart enough to make socially and environmentally informed decisions about what we buy and wear. And they're banking on us buying the same pair of socks and the same underwear we always have, year after year after year. And up to this point, that's been a pretty safe bet.
Take "Massive Sock Company A". They have this giant linear manufacturing system set up, from cotton farm to store to landfill. And they have that system down to a science--the science of how to make the cheapest pair of socks in the least amount of time. That's what the people have always wanted, right? Who cares about the massive impact on the planet? Who cares about unsafe and inequitable working conditions? As long as we're buying the socks, they're making money. Why would "Massive Sock Company A" ever want to change a thing?
And what if they did decide to grow a conscience and make a collection using circular design and earth-friendly technology and sustainable practices and put some real marketing muscle behind it? If they did, they'd just be drawing attention to the fact that their old, business-as-usual product is doing a lot of horrible things to the planet and the people. They'd be hurting their own winning formula. And shareholders don't exactly love the sound of that.
So how bad is it, really? Let me just throw a few stats at you.
Textiles is the second dirtiest industry in the world. Only the oil industry pollutes more. According to this recent study, only 1% of clothing is ever recycled. The rest is either burned or dumped into landfills--enough to fill a garbage truck every second! Or how about this: growing 1 Kg of virgin cotton takes over 15,000 liters of water. At the same time, 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water.
But as long as the old business model makes sense (as long as we keep buying their products the way we always have), "Massive Sock Company A" ain't changing a damn thing. And anyhow, the mainstream textile industry as a whole is way too big to make such sweeping changes. That is, until people stop buying their dirty socks.
It's going to take annoying little brands like us to disrupt this system. And we need your to help to blow this thing up! Big change happens when enough people change their habits. Think Netflix. You used to go rent movies at Blockbuster....