Globally, around 87% of textiles end up in landfill or are incinerated. UPPAREL is an Australian owned clothing brand that is also the world’s first digital textile recycling company, which means they use their virtual platform for consumers to recycle their clothing and contribute to the supply chain. They are driven by their slow fashion sustainability values and aim to lessen the long-term impacts of textiles by extending product lifecycles and recycling discarded clothing. Their business model is built on collecting, sorting, and recycling clothing from local customers in Australia, and turning them into new colourful socks and underwear. Part of the profits also go towards supporting other organisations and charities that are dedicated to circularity and sustainability.
UPPAREL has won multiple awards that reflect their many positive efforts:
* National Retail Association Sustainability Champion of the Year for 2020
* 2018 Winner of 200 Businesses for tomorrow
* 2020 Finalist’s Premier Sustainability
Overall, this product and the extra services offered by UPPAREL are great for conscious consumers that want to support a circular fashion movement. I really like how their textiles are sorted by condition to ensure that nothing truly goes to waste before its time and would love to see more companies taking inspiration from UPPAREL to implement similar recycling practices.
Composition: 50% Recycled Cotton, 20% Combed Cotton, 20% Polyamide, 5% Elastane
All of UPPAREL’s socks are made with a minimum of 50% recycled cotton. By using recycled cotton, they are preventing fabrics from ending up incinerated or in landfill. Textiles in landfill are not able to decompose properly and release methane gas that is 3-4 times their mass, while incinerated clothes contribute to high amounts of air pollution. UPPAREL is proud of their 10:1 ratio, which describes how for every one pair of socks bought, is equivalent to preventing 10 pairs from going to landfill. The company is very transparent on their recycled cotton sourcing process. Through the website, customers can purchase compostable storage bags that get delivered to their homes for them to place unwanted clothing in and drop outside for an employee to pick up (or alternatively, pack it in their own box/bags to lessen waste). They’ll also receive cash back in the form of store credits!
Combed Cotton is more soft and durable compared to regular cotton. This is due to an extra combing step that removes impurities and short cotton fibers that are prone to breakage. This makes the use of combed cotton more expensive, but ensures an overall higher quality product.
Polyamide is a general term that refers to fabrics made from strings of plastic polyamide monomers, such as nylon. It’s cheap, durable, and strong but made from crude oil, which is not good for the environment. Although, polyamide fabrics can also be recycled, but I am not sure if that’s what is being used or if new ones are added in this composition. Elastane is similar to polyamide with it being sourced from petroleum, and can contribute to microplastic pollution. With these two fibers making up almost 1/3 of the socks, I hope that UPPAREL can be more clear in the future on how these are sourced, or has plans to switching to more sustainable alternatives.
The packaging and tags on their products do not use any plastics and are sent out in recycled boxes. They are also FSC certified and 100% recyclable. An FSC certification ensures that UPPAREL’s packaging has come responsibly managed forests that provide social, economic and environmental benefits.
Recycled cotton, or reclaimed cotton, is made from converting cotton fabric into cotton fibre. Once discarded textiles are received, they go through a sorting process to either be reused, repurposed, or recycled. Items that are fit for wear are given to Australian charities to ensure they are available to those who need them most. Items that can be easily repurposed, like denim jeans, are used in collaboration with partnered Australian brands to create new designs. Any remaining ruined textiles are sorted by colour to skip the dyeing process, shredded, and spun into yarn that’s used to make their socks and underwear. While shredding, other fibres may be added to the mixture.
Since Australia’s textile recycling is still in its infancy, the recyclable textiles are sent to a partner commercial recycling facility in India to be shredded. The transportation between countries would increase carbon emissions, but as Australia develops its facilities, I can see how the production process will become more local over time. I am also curious to know how much energy the shredding and spinning processes take.
Now, let’s take a look at the price! For a pack of 3 pairs, the price comes to 45 AUD. I can see how this would be an investment, as it’s a lot more expensive compared to socks offered by Australian department stores which all hover below 20AUD. However, it can be paid incrementally or you can opt for UPPAREL’S subscription services that can help alleviate costs. They offer a sustainable socks subscription that gives customers a recycled sock pair every month at a discounted price (equal to 11 AUD). The subscription also provides the recycling service for free to get rid of any old socks in the process. This all feeds back into the sustainable concept of circularity from properly managing textile waste!
While the company mentions their Modern Slavery Policy on their website, I could not find it available online as well as any sustainability reports. It is possible that these are just not easily available to the public, but I think it would be more beneficial if they were. However, UPPAREL became a Certified B Corporation earlier this year, a certification that is only awarded to companies that meet the highest standards of social and environmental impact. This is a well-respected and known certification, and makes me trust that their workers have reasonable hours, safe and healthy working conditions, and are paid living wages. Although, I would have even less doubt if they were more clear about their factory locations for where the socks are assembled.