Are handmade and personalized clothing good for the planet?

There is nothing more appealing to a consumer than a product designed specifically for them.

Whether the pieces meet a person’s measurements, style or color preferences, they impart a sense of individuality and creativity to the wearer – and in the fashion industry, these features are among the most valuable and most valuable. more profitable.

Personalized items have long been the domain of luxury fashion. Tailored suits, tailored dresses, and even the perfect-sized shoes were only for those who could afford them and knew where to find them. But as the pandemic fueled DIY trends – providing business opportunities for those who could crochet, bead, sew or knit – ordering personalized clothing became as easy as opening an app.

A quick search for “customs” on Depop will download hundreds of thousands of personalized jewelry, footwear and clothing listings.Depop

Crochet pieces made to order from the brand Memorial day were adopted by Kylie Jenner, Rihanna and Bella Hadid, while Ian Charms personalized pearl necklaces received love from Emma Chamberlain, Joe Jonas and Dua Lipa. The influence of these celebrities, along with the increasing accessibility of personalized pieces, has created an influx of demand for unique items. For Gen Z in particular, made-to-order pieces seem to have more value than exclusive sneakers or luxury handbags: customs are made just for you, and no one else.

Good outweighs the bad. “

Yet the uniqueness of made-to-order items makes it harder for them to please someone other than who they were created for. The market for a nameplate necklace is limited to people who share your name, while a personalized crochet mini skirt must be of interest to someone with your measurements and style. While made-to-order parts have been praised for their durability – as they are made one-by-one and provide consumers with their ideal fit, increasing wear and tear on an item – just how durable are custom items once. that they weren’t wanted by the people they were designed for?

Staff. For someone else.

“The good outweighs the bad,” says Sara Anne Leeds, Founder of Rhymes with Orange, a blog on sustainable development and a second-hand market. While she admits that personalized pieces may be more difficult to take home, their environmental impact is much lower than that of recognizable brands with higher resale value: “It’s more sustainable to buy a unique piece than it is. to buy a big batch … probably produced under poor working conditions and creating excessive amounts of waste, ”she said. Textile waste and energy consumption are drastically reduced as each garment is produced to order, adds Leeds.

The largest, and the most problematic, exception to this rule corporate branding.

Made-to-order items are also more thoughtful in their buying process – not only are you specifying how you want the item to fit and look, you’re spending a lot more for it than a quick fashion piece, Leeds adds. “There must be a real layer of consideration [before purchasing]She said, instead of maniacally clicking buy on $ 6 mass-produced parts. Buying a personalized item also requires communicating with another human – a pesky detail that fast fashion sites and curbside pickups have eliminated – which means people are actively talking to designers on Instagram, Etsy. and Depop, and are finalizing their designs.

But after potentially waiting weeks for their bespoke piece to arrive, what if the consumer no longer wants their item? In most cases, there are no returns on personalized and handmade items, and unless the piece is made by a notable artist (perhaps one worn by Bella Hadid or Rihanna), it there is little resale value in the product.

“[Buyers] want to appreciate the artistry the first time when they buy the item, ”says Leeds, noting that most don’t trade in handmade products. “But when [a buyer] resells the item, there is less value attached because they personally did not manufacture the item. For anyone buying from resale websites or browsing a thrift store, the value of the product is at the surface level.

Prohibition of the mark

Drew Angerer / Getty Images News / Getty Images

The graphics, or the silkscreened customs, are a bit different, explains Leeds. Unlike crocheted skirts and pearl necklaces, iconographic pieces transcend trends and appeal to a wider population. Whether worn ironically, like kitsch event t-shirts, or worn on purpose, like a rising brand The OGBFF “Nobody Really Likes Aperol Spritz” Shirt, the graphics apply to anyone who enjoys his messaging. The biggest and most problematic exception to this is corporate branding.

While labels like Supreme and Off-White have made their names by putting their signatures everywhere, local businesses don’t have the same appeal. Walking into the t-shirt sections of a thrift store you will find rows of graphics promoting businesses, 5k runs, and various promotions that make no sense to anyone outside of the group who are them. created. Unless something is recognizable or vintage – interesting collectors – branded goods will most likely end up in a landfill.

Leeds reports a recent New York Times characteristic, nicknamed “The Cotton Tote Crisis”. Just as the article explains, she says she has too many cotton bags, sporting company logos or ambiguous designs. While tote bags were created as a sustainable, reusable alternative to plastic bags, there are far too many in circulation for them to be considered more environmentally friendly, says Leeds.

Most of the t-shirts seen at Goodwill Bins – the last destination before clothes go to landfill – are corporate t-shirts. San Francisco Chronicle / Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images / Hearst Newspapers / Getty Images

Likewise, branded hats, t-shirts and tote bags are polluting the planet. The item demographics are far more limited than even that of a crochet skirt, and bespoke manufacturers have started to realize: “Adding an additional non-removable logo shortens the lifespan of a garment, often a lot, for trivial reasons, “said the brand in its announcement.

Buying personalized clothing is much more sustainable than ordering corporate t-shirts in bulk, says Leeds. And as people continue to buy bespoke clothing – the number of consumers will only increase, she says – the market for resale of unique items will also increase. Whether personalized artists become recognizable names or the demand for handmade items increases, the future of fashion is personalized. “There are so many meanings to custom,” says Leeds; and this meaning is likely to change as large firms turn to smaller, more specialized production.

Yet producing anything – even if the items are ethically created or handmade – is less sustainable than sourcing from the billions of pieces of clothing that frequent thrift stores, vintage retailers, and ultimately landfills. . Now are you really going to keep this personalized piece forever, or will it just add to the stack?

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