For most people, buying a T-shirt is a pretty common occurrence. When you can buy a plain top on the high street for under £10, updating your wardrobe can quickly become an almost weekly event.
But Tom Cridland, a young menswear designer based in London, believes wardrobe staples should be built to last. Last month Cridland launched a £25 T-shirt that is designed and guaranteed to last 30 years – if it wears out before the three decades are up, Cridland promises to mend or replace the shirt, free of charge.
The inspiration for the project came after Cridland set up his eponymous fashion label, which launched in 2014 with a range of men’s trousers that have been spotted on the likes of Elton John, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Daniel Craig.
“I certainly noticed the prevalence of fast fashion in the industry and what that can do to the environment, especially when companies are systematically making clothing to wear out,” he tells BusinessGreen. “If you go into a low-cost high street retailer you will see badly made white T-shirts that wear out after a year. But why should that be?”
The problem of planned obsolescence has haunted the technology sector for years, but the issue is starting to filter through to all aspects of the economy. In June the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) called for a “resource revolution” in its latest five-year plan, highlighting the textile industry as a key area with huge potential for tackling waste.
Cridland is hoping to play his part in bringing down the industry’s high waste levels. In June he raised nearly $80,000 in a Kickstarter campaign to create an £50 organic cotton sweatshirt with a 30-year guarantee. He plans to repeat the success of the sweatshirt with the 30-year T-shirt, which is taking pre-orders now on crowdfunding platform IndieGoGo.
Cridland says his team of tailors, based in Portugal, use a traditional loopback knitting technique which makes the garments far more durable than their high street equivalents. In addition, the organic cotton T-shirt has reinforced sleeve seams, and is made with ringspun fibres to prevent the fabric pilling after a few wears. The clothes are also coated with a silicon treatment that prevents them shrinking in the wash. “I have every confidence that [the T-shirt] is well made enough to last that long and should anything happen to anyone’s T-shirts I’d be more than happy to take a look, replace them if need be and mend them where possible,” Cridland promises.
He says one of his aims is to provide an alternative to fast fashion for the younger buyer. While older, wealthier shoppers are able to invest in hardwearing staples such as a Barbour jacket, Cridland says there are often not many options for those on a more limited budget to buy hard-wearing clothes.
“We’re trying to make hard-wearing fashion more affordable,” he says. He claims the T-shirt – which comes in pink, white, electric blue, red and navy – is as good quality as any high-end designer. He says if he were to sell them through traditional retail channels they would cost at least £50 – double their current price.
The launch of the T-shirt is part of a trend towards more sustainable fashion. Following the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, when the collapse of an eight-storey garment factory in Bangladesh put the supply chains of major high street brands under the spotlight, a number of fashion retailers have been working to improve their supply chains and bolster their ethical credentials.
In February 2014, 12 of the UK’s biggest fashion retailers pledged to cut the carbon, water and waste impact of their clothes by 15 per cent by the end of the decade. A few months later, in October 2014, 20 major fashion retailers including Asos and M&S signed up to an industry campaign to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. Meanwhile, more companies are rolling out clothing recycling schemes, allowing customers to return worn goods in return for a discount on their new purchases.
Despite this progress, Cridland believes most retailers are still not going far enough. “There is always more that can be done, especially when you’re a big name brand,” he says. As a small business owner, Cridland says he is risking a lot more by focusing on the sustainability of his clothing. For other, larger companies, “it seems like they’re just doing something to put on a website and not really investing as much of their resources in tackling the problem as they potentially could”.
Later this year, Cridland plans to turn his attention to men’s shoes, followed by shirts and swimming trunks in 2016. Rivals might ask where is the business sense in providing customers with garments that will not need replacing for decades. But Cridland insists this is a challenge designers should relish. “Designers should keep their customers coming back by releasing new designs that are interesting,” he says. The key difference is, Cridland would prefer those designs were made to last.
Source: Recycling BG