The three best sustainable fashion innovations of 2021

‘Time’ magazine recently published its list of best inventions of the year.  It’s remarkable how many of these incorporate sustainability thinking.  Everist’s Waterless Shampoo Concentrate is 100% plant-based, plastic free and eliminates the water which makes up 70% of the contents of a standard shampoo bottle. Kuleana is perfect for anyone who went completely off their sushi after seeing ‘Seaspiracy’ – it’s a sushi-grade seafood made entirely from plants.

‘Time’ also has good news for the sustainability-minded fashion consumer, as all three of its selections in the Fashion category benefit people and the planet:

(1) Rothy’s loafers

 Rothy’s have turned millions of single-use plastic bottles into shoes, and transformed ocean-bound plastic into bags and accessories.  The brand has also launched a pilot programme for recycling shoes, which is tough to do.  Most used shoes end up in – guess where?  Yes, in landfill.  Really importantly, Rothy’s shoes are ‘remarkably durable’.  Making products that last is arguably the single most important contribution to the environment a brand can make, as it avoids creating clothes that have a fleeting life before being thrown out.  Perhaps the most innovative aspect of Rothy’s is that they are knitted.   This results in dramatically less waste in the production versus from traditional shoe-making, presumably because traditional shoe-making uses patterns that generate off-cuts of materials that can’t be used again. 

Rothy’s shoes

As ‘Time’ point out, Rothy’s seem very apt for the post-pandemic mood.  People want to get out of their sweatpants and look sharp again, but aren’t going back to uncomfortable shoes.  It’s true: My high heels haven’t had an outing since early 2020. 

(2) Unspun jeans

A second sustainable fashion innovation of 2021comes from Unspun. The company’s mission is to reduce global carbon emissions by 1% through automated, localized, and intentional manufacturing.  The brand produces garments on demand.  This method of production is antithetical to the fast fashion approaches which lead to overproduction: an estimated 30% of all clothes produced globally are never sold.   Each pair of Unspun jeans is bespoke, based on a customer’s unique measurements.  This is reminiscent of the days of traditional tailoring when seamstresses made clothes to fit each customer’s own measurements.  By contrast, Unspun uses a high-tech method to achieve the results that formerly relied on a tailor’s tape measure.  Each pair starts with a body scan (which can be done on a smartphone) capturing 30,000 data points, enabling the brand to ‘make the best fitting jeans on the planet’.  Customers get to pick the style, wash, thread, waist rise and hem length if their perfectly tailored pair.  What’s more, Unspun will repair jeans any time within the first two years of ownership. 

(3) Bombas underwear

Time’s final fashion innovation comes from Bombas.  Socks, underwear, and t-shirts are the #1, #2, and #3 most requested clothing items in homeless shelters, respectively. Bombas set out to change that by donating a clothing item for every item purchased.  The brand is driven by its social purpose and by its utter dedication to quality.  Say goodbye to painful toe seams and socks that slip.  Bombas’ socks are, in fact, perfection. The innovation ‘Time’ has singled out is the new range of underwear whose unique cross-stitching technique makes the seams feel like they aren’t even there. While Bombas is a certified B Corporation,  it lacks a sustainability section on its website.  That’s unusual.  The brand does make durable clothes, which is sustainable in itself, but there’s no word on its environmental impact.  Its B Corp score is excellent on community, but a measly 3.9 on environment.   Bombas may be highly socially sustainable but less ecologically it’s much less so. 


What stands out from Time’s list is that many of its selections are mission-driven brands: Unspun exists to reduce carbon emissions, Bombas to help the unhoused, and Rothy’s to make sustainable styles for all.  This upends the old approach to business which is to make as much profit as possible, and perhaps donate a sliver of that money to a corporate responsibility project.  If Time’s analysis tells us something significant, it’s that mission-driven businesses are a new normal.

#innovation #sustainablefashion #circulareconomy #sustainability #ethicalfashion #makefashioncircular

Published by jengreggs

I'm a London-based writer and blogger focused on sustainability in fashion. My purpose is to help everyone discover the joy of living more sustainably.

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