Mar 7, 2020 - Economy & Business

Fashionably late: The apparel industry's shift toward sustainability

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Designer looks captured the catwalks at Fashion Weeks around the world. But beyond the runways, recycled clothing, thrifting and renting apparel are growing in popularity and reshaping the market.

Why it matters: Fashion is a massive polluter. According to the United Nations, fashion produces 20% of the world's wastewater and 10% of the world's carbon emissions — calling the habit of quick closet-turnover into question.

Where it stands: Market niches that favor the trend are emerging in the clothing industry.

Recycled materials

Some companies are producing apparel made from recycled materials ranging from water bottles to previously worn garments.

  • Rothy's, a popular shoe brand, makes flats, sneakers and loafers 100% from post-consumer water bottles.
  • Hanes, an undergarment staple, has increased the use of recycled cotton and polyester.
  • H&M, a prominent fast-fashion retailer, has committed to using 100% sustainable cotton this year and offers discounts to customers who recycle their old clothing with the company.
Apparel renting

A number of companies offer subscriptions that allow shoppers to rent pieces, often of high quality, and return them for new stock.

  • Consumers cycle through a wear-and-return closet, rather than buy individual items. The industry produces less and, in turn, pollutes less.
  • Some individual retailers — Urban Outfitters, American Eagle, Express — are creating their own rental services, while others offer an array of brands.
  • Rent the Runway, one of the leaders in rentable apparel, was valued at $1 billion last March, according to Business Insider.
The revival of thrift

Thrifting has made a comeback, with digital outlets offering re-sellers a new avenue for profit.

  • Social media has allowed thrift stores to market their content online and offer shipping services, vastly expanding access to customers.
  • Self-selling apps like Poshmark and Mercari have also allowed individuals to start listing pieces in their own closets for secondhand sale.
  • Thrifting reduces the production of new clothing and the amount of used apparel stuffed into the back of closets and trash bags.

The bottom line: There's innately something less sexy about renting or reusing clothes. However, there's also something particularly unattractive about a polluted, warming planet for the sake of a stylish fit, making the former worthy of consideration.

Go deeper: More people are into fashion, but fewer inspired by legacy outlets

Go deeper

Podcast downloads drop during coronavirus outbreak

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans have been listening to fewer podcasts since the coronavirus pandemic started to worsen in the United States, fashion trade publication Women's Wear Daily reports.

Why it matters: Podcast downloads have dropped about 10%, and the number of total unique listeners also dropped around 20% since the start of the month, according to data from Podtrac.

The Trump administration's 180 on stock buybacks

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump told reporters on Thursday he would be "OK" with a conditional coronavirus bailout that bans stock buybacks for companies that receive federal relief.

Why it matters: Trump's tax cuts set off a record-setting buyback spree in corporate America. The comments are a shift in tone, given that his deputies have defended share repurchases in the past.

What Americans are buying online during the coronavirus outbreak

Data: Adobe; Chart: Axios Visuals

It's no shock that online shopping has surged, especially for groceries, but new data from Adobe offers some valuable breakdowns of exactly where consumer dollars are going.

Why it matters: Some buying patterns are likely temporary, but many people may permanently expand what they buy online, even once physical stores reopen.