Globally, the fashion industry is responsible for over 92 million tons of waste each year, with 17 million tons stemming from the United States alone. As sustainability becomes a growing concern for many, consumers are turning to see how brands are responding to this problem and what actionable steps they are taking toward it — especially within the fashion industry.
As Earth Day approaches and spring cleaning is on the forefront of many people’s minds, it’s crucial that sustainable options are being offered to help reduce a surplus of waste from hitting landfills and contributing to this larger problem.
Damage prevention and managing returns is a reality for all brands that sell goods, and can be a major contributor to fashion waste. Years ago, when trying to order a pair of skinny jeans, I struggled to determine the best sizing; sizes and measurements seemed to be contradicting each other. I wondered if there was a way where I could just save the fit of my favorite pair of jeans and make it a pattern for all future jeans I would purchase. This system would not only help me consistently achieve my desired fit, but decrease the amount of returned items retailers would accumulate.
That’s when I saw the unique opportunity to create a tech-powered platform that could help: Hemster. My idea was to be able to leverage technology to ensure that tailoring and repairs for brand items were happening efficiently, providing both an opportunity for brands to be sustainable while preventing waste and also increasing the opportunity for profit. Hemster’s technology is able to capture accurate fit data, down to the quarter inch and is unique for each customer. We then are able to save this clean fit data so that customers can easily make repeat purchases in the future using their existing measurements. Not only does this system benefit customers by providing them with garments that are custom to their body type, but it also benefits retailers by drastically reducing the rate of returns — which is both a cost-efficient and environmentally friendly alternative.
Another major component of Hemster’s services includes garment refurbishment at scale. When a garment is returned to a store because of minor damages, like missing buttons or broken zippers, it often ends up sitting in a warehouse for an extended period of time and eventually makes its way to a landfill. We work with future-focused brands like Faherty, Hill House, Aday and Outdoor Voices to bring dead stock inventory back to life so it is able to be sold again at full price. By partnering with retailers, we are able to help fuel their sustainability goals and monetize this pool of inventory, as the majority of these damaged garments can actually be resold again at full price with just a simple repair.
For example, we recently partnered with Faherty to revive slightly damaged new stock critical to their key partner in under 10 days. Not only was the service timely — which was extremely important, as the items were seasonal — but these repair services allowed the merchandise to be sold at full price so the company could make profit where it otherwise would not have been able to.
In addition to offering repair services to retailers, Hemster customers can also work with the company to repair pieces in their own closets as well. In a recent survey conducted by Hemster, only 20% of women and eight percent of men between the ages of 35 and 54 said they currently had no damaged garments in their closets and 50% of women and 42% within the same age group find themselves having to purchase new clothes monthly. However, by utilizing Hemster’s repair services, customers can easily restore their damaged garments, which will prevent fashion waste in landfills while also minimizing the need to constantly purchase new. When asked if they would be open to sending their damaged garments to Hemster for repairs, 75% of men in the 35 to 54 year age category said yes.
Preventing fashion waste is something that both retailers and consumers can contribute to — they just may not be sure of the best ways to help. While options like donation and resale are top of mind for many, being able to restore the overall lifetime value of garments and keep these items within your closet is ultimately the most sustainable option, ensuring that excess clothing is not ending up in our landfills.