While the fast fashion industry brings in a lot of cash, it also causes a lot of pollution and is responsible for about 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Synthetic and petrochemical-made garments account for roughly 70% of the $3 trillion fashion industry.
Companies’ claims that their clothing lines are sustainable are extremely vague. Some clothes reduce carbon during production, while others do so during wear.
Companies like Activ activewear and Kent underwear, as well as newcomer Unless, which calls itself “the first streetwear brand to create products that will harmlessly decompose at the end of life,” demonstrate the rapid expansion of the market for garments made from plants. These garments can be composted in contrast to the petroleum-based garments commonly worn today. The company claims that all of its products, including clothing, are constructed entirely from plant-based nutrients such as recycled cotton, hemp, vegetable leather, and coconut fibre.
Executives at Unless, according to CEO Eric Liedtke, “got tired of the make, take, and throw away culture of fashion,” so they decided to do something about it and launch the company. Planned obsolescence in clothing is typically founded on a low-cost feedstock derived from petrochemicals or petroleum. However, what you don’t realise is that doing so yields synthetics, which are permanent, ever-lasting materials.
Since Liedtke previously worked at Adidas, it’s no surprise that Unless also sells shoes in addition to clothing and accessories.
Our product is designed from the finish out. Because the most obvious question is “what happens when I’m done using it?” that becomes an easy story to tell consumers. It decomposes harmlessly into plant and worm food and disappears. And that matters to me as much as the quality of the product you produce. According to Liedtke, “it’s the product times the story.”
Apart from its web store, Unless only operates a temporary storefront in its hometown of Portland, Oregon. Liedtke envisions the company expanding along with the surging demand for environmentally friendly goods, and she intends to work with other brands to reduce fashion waste. Unless is now working with Mammut, a Swiss climbing gear manufacturer that has been in business for 160 years.
On International Mountain Day, Liedtke announced, “We did that, and I’m happy to say the product sold out in 48 hours.”
The company’s relatively high prices may be reduced through these partnerships: On the website, for instance, the price of a “Biodegradable Hoodie” is listed as $129. Some consumers justify the extra cost by saying they’re supporting a good cause.
I am willing to spend more money on eco-friendly garments. Dru Ueltschi, a customer at the pop-up shop, speculated as much. “I think it’s, partly, just like it’s my contribution to helping the planet,” he said.
Connect Ventures, a joint venture between Creative Artists Agency and New Enterprise Associates (NEA), is backing Unless, which has so far raised $7.5 million.