Elizabeth was recently a guest on Magnifeco Radio, a podcast series of frank and intimate conversations with sustainable fashion leaders hosted by Kate Black, author and founder of magnifeco.com. With the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Stella McCartney teaming up on a groundbreaking new circular fashion study, “Redesigning Fashion’s Future,” Kate and Elizabeth debated the future of a circular fashion industry and the importance of keeping clothes out of the landfill. Highlights from Elizabeth’s interview below. Listen to the full episode below, or here. Download is available here.
Textile waste is a huge opportunity but there are major challenges ahead
[Elizabeth Cline] “I work in the secondhand clothing industry and my life and perspective on this issue has been completely transformed from dealing directly with used clothes. So I physically dig through and sort used clothes every week, thousands of pounds every week.”
“I do see textile waste as a huge opportunity, and I think that there is value and money to be made there, but we have a really difficult road ahead of us. Most used clothing is completely worthless.”
The ins-and-outs of the used clothing business
“Thredup and Swap.com sell mass-market [used clothes] online. So they’re trying to figure out how to extract value out of the T.J. Maxx, the Banana Republic, the Gap, that’s the bulk of what’s in the waste stream [the low-value mass-market item]… so everyone is struggling right now with how to make money off that really tough part of the business, the T.J. Maxx and the J.C.Penney clearance items that most of us buy.”
“If a brand is really ubiquitous it suppresses it’s value in the secondhand market. That’s why designer clothes have higher value because they are literally more exclusive, they’re rare; they’re are fewer pieces of them.”
Are Americans giving up consumerism?
“A lot of people are questioning American consumerism, which is so crazy because this has been our way of life for over a half century. And now people are like, Wait a minute, what am I getting out this?”
We need public education that all textiles are recyclable
“We need to be collecting more used clothes. In the public’s mind, there’s so much confusion about which parts of their unwanted clothes can be donated. I think there’s the perception that if something is worn out then it needs to go into the garbage, so we need public education too. That’s got to be a huge part of it.”
Diverting more textile waste from the landfills
“Right now, we’re diverting 3.8 billion pounds from landfills and then 21 billion pounds are going in the landfills in the United States. So trying to figure out what we’re going to do with it once we keep it out of the landfills is exciting, but it’s also scary.”
Listen to the full episode here: