Clothing Designers Reusing Materials to Save Environment

Clothing designers are turning to unusual plants and used materials to make products that better use natural resources.

More people are paying closer attention to how the production of clothing affects the environment. However, some experts say that the idea of “buy and throw away,” still rules when it comes to clothes.

This is true -- although some famous people support a movement to reuse and recycle clothing.

Actress Maggie Q created a line of clothes from recycled fabrics. She is among activists who believe more can be done to waste less.

She says she feels “sick” about “fast fashion” -- low-cost clothes that can be worn once, then thrown away.

The British design team, Vin + Omi, looks for creative ways to make the industry more sustainable. Their clothing is worn by former first lady Michelle Obama and singers Beyonce and Lady Gaga.

The team found latex from Malaysia. But, when they discovered the conditions for the work there were bad, they bought the operation.

In their office in the English countryside, they grow unusual crops for cloth development. These include chestnuts from trees and horseradish.

Their latest line of clothes includes ones made from nettle plants, alpaca hair and recycled plastic from paint containers.

Another English designer, Zoe Corsellis, keeps her carbon footprint low by manufacturing her clothes in London. The cloth comes from the United Kingdom and Germany. She makes the cloth from wood products, sea waste and something called “peace silk.” It is considered a better method for silkworms than the traditional silk production process.

Belgian designer Sebastiaan de Neubourg is recycling plastic bottles, car parts, and machines used in homes. Plastic waste is collected and torn into small pieces for a 3D printer.

“Waste, I believe, is a design failure,” he said.

More famous people are also playing a part in the movement. They are buying vintage - or old - clothes used by people long ago. Others wear a set of clothes more than once.

Fee Gilfeather is a sustainability expert with the nonprofit group Oxfam. She said there is hope that more will be done.

“The textile industry is getting close to working out how to do fiber-to-fiber recycling,” she said. Such recycling takes clothes that are no longer wanted or needed and breaks them down into raw materials to make new clothing.

She said the industry needs to move faster because carbon emissions from textile manufacturers are predicted to increase by 60 percent by 2050.

Some fast-fashion industry leaders, including Zara and H&M stores, have launched clothing take-back plans aimed at recycling old clothes. But for now, recycling and a zero-waste goal is mostly a small part of the worldwide industry.


Discuss the following vocabulary with your teacher

recycle - v. to make something new from (something that has been used before)​

  • We teach our students to recycle paper, plastic, and glass at our school

line - n. a seasonal collection of clothes for sale

  • She had a very different design approach to her Spring line this year.

sustainable - adj. able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed​

  • However, to be sustainable, agriculture must provide the farmer with a living.

latex - n. a white fluid produced by certain plants that is used for making rubber​

  • The composition of latex and of typical rubbers is given in her thesis.

fiber - n. material (such as cloth) that is made from thin threads​

  • She was allergic to fiber which is why she could not wear that dress.

fabric - n. woven or knitted material

  • All of the dresses that came from that specific designer had the softest fabric.

alpaca - n. wool of the alpaca or a cloth made of it​

  • The alpaca is highly prized for its fine wool, which is a staple export from Bolivia,

carbon footprint - n. the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds released due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person or group

  • Some of this was driven by reducing fuel use and reducing the carbon footprint.

3D printer - n. a device that allows people to make complex objects on their own​

  • In order to apply for this position, one would have to have experience using a 3D printer.

textile - n. made of cloth

  • Textile plants are extremely common.

emission - n. something sent out or given off

  • Students generally use the gas Emission program after observing the spectra emitted by gas discharge tubes.



Answer the following questions about the article

  1. What is Maggie Q's profession?
  2. How has Maggie Q contributed to this cause?
  3. Who are some of the celebrities that wear Vin + Omi designs?
  4. Where does Zoe Corsellis develop her clothing?


Make a sentence

Make a sentence using the following words

  • recycle
  • line
  • sustainable
  • latex
  • fiber
  • fabric
  • alpaca
  • carbon footprint
  • 3D printer
  • textile
  • emission



Have a discussion by answering the following questions

  1. What are some ways that you can think of recycling in your home or neighborhood?
  2. Do you have a favorite clothing designer?
  3. Do or any of your friends wear designer clothing?
  4. What is a popular designer that you know of? Can you name a few?