Zara Join Life Review

Join Life is Zara’s environmentally conscious range. But is it any good, or just greenwashing? And how are the clothes?

Join Life garments are produced using processes and raw materials that reduce environmental impact, such as organic cotton, Tencel™, or recycled polyester.

Label from my Join Life sweatshirt

Above and below are photos of a Zara Life sweatshirt I bought second hand, but unworn. I prefer buying second hand when I can, because any new item requires extraction of resources from the environment, while second hand avoids that. Buying preloved can also save clothes from landfill.

So, when it comes to brand new clothes (which I do sometimes buy), it’s a case of ‘less unsustainable’ if that makes sense: anything you buy brand new will have some negative environmental impact, but some clothes are less damaging than others.

What’s good about Zara’s Join Life:

  • There’s no need to sacrifice style for the sake of sustainability. Because who wants that? I am doing what I can to resist this gingham dress – it would look so good for the first al fresco drinks when pubs reopen. And I don’t think I will be able to resist this amazing 100% organic cotton pink New York skyline sweatshirt.
  • Join Life clothes are at least 50% sustainable fabric – which could be organic cotton, recycled polyester, or Tencel™, which is a fabric made from wood.
  • The prices are equivalent to the rest of the Zara range (Join Life accounted for 19% of Inditex’s sales in 2019). I think that’s a good thing on balance: research shows that the large majority of people won’t pay more for sustainable clothes. If Join Life cost more than the rest of Zara’s range, most shoppers would carry on buying the non-sustainable options instead.

Me in the sweatshirt. Can’t wait til lockdown’s over and someone else can take a photo of me, as opposed to the selfie-into-the-mirror …

What’s not so good about Join Life?

  • The fabrics are less unsustainable, but that doesn’t make them sustainable. Organic cotton eliminates pesticides, which is a big environmental win, but still requires a huge amount of water and land. Recycled polyester avoids extracting virgin resources, but still causes microplastic pollution. Microplastic pollution caused by washing processes of synthetic textiles has recently been assessed as the main source of primary microplastics in the ocean. Not good.
  • I’m not sure (yet) on the quality of these clothes. They are inexpensive and that often goes with not-so-good quality. I do try to only buy things I know I’ll wear at least 30 times, but that only works if something is decent quality. I’ll report back.

More about the brand’s sustainability plans

The Join Life range is one element of parent company Inditex’s sustainability commitments. A ton of information about this can be found in the Inditex annual report . Quoting from the report, Inditex has committed to:

The elimination of single-use plastic from customer interfaces by 2023; the recycling of all waste generated in our facilities, also by 2023; and the use of only sustainable man-made cellulosic fibres such as viscose by 2023, and the use of only sustainable, organic or recycled cotton, sustainable linen and recycled polyester all by 2025

I have to admit, I was quite impressed by the sustainability targets. To commit to only sustainable materials by 2023 is a big deal. And a lot of progress has happened: In 2019, Inditex increased the use of recycled materials by 250%.

Despite all this, Zara’s critics say the brand is inherently unsustainable because its business model is one of fast fashion: a reliance on excessive purchasing of clothes, that are worn only a few times before being replaced by new items. Pablo Isla, the Inditex chairman, has previously said it’s up to the company to make its products sustainable, but how often consumers buy new clothes is up to them. Do you agree?

#preloved #secondhandfirst #sustainablewardrobe #sustainablefashion #sustainablecloset #ethicalfashion #fashion #fashionblog #30wears

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