Striving for sustainability in the hosiery industry

The Scale of Things

It would only be appropriate to give you an insight into the sheer scale and contribution the fashion industry has on lending a hand to our ever-growing landfills. We could not just allude to the vast extent we are participating in damaging this planet, without most of us even seemingly knowing so and this is only set to get worse as demands continue to grow. 

According to Glynis Sweeny at Alternet  the fashion industry is the second greatest polluter after oil. She says brands that we wear daily, speak little of the horrific truth and contribution their production has upon our planet. Determining the footprint of garment production is difficult, given the complex chain of manufacturing processes. By stimulating a global desire to slow down fast fashion we can stunt the effects it is having on the environment. TLC has already cut out the middleman to sell the tights straight to you. 

Crucially nylon is unable to biodegrade (or it takes hundreds of years to degrade) so it will remain in the environment indefinitely. Summer Edwards writes about the environmental impacts of nylon at “Tortoise and Lady Grey” and addresses how washing the tights really disrupts microplastic into the sea, hugely affecting aquatic organisms. Fortunately, consumers are becoming more and more aware of this activity that is so normal in our day to day lives. Nonetheless, there is still a lot of work to be done to raise consumer awareness.

What this all means for the hosiery industry? Everyone knows tights have a relatively short life cycle and often the product ends in the landfill just after one or two uses. This is why The Legwear Co. has spent the past six years developing longer lasting, more durable products. There is still plenty of work ahead of us and taking the correct care of tights is the first step. Tights do not need to be washed after every wear and when the washing is necessary hand washing is much gentler on the product. 

How Can You Help?

Luckily the two most commonly used polyamide grades and raw material of hosiery, nylon 6 (PA6) and nylon 66 (PA66), are easily reusable. These are the same raw materials that make many plastic products, such as bottles. Given the specific properties of nylon, it can be repeatedly recycled. The problem in stretch fabric has always been the elastane content of the yarn. Through recycling partners in the UK, TLC has found a way to remove the elastane content by melting the waste at different melting points, to remove the unusable material. However, to create a circular economy, it is crucial that recycling schemes are enforced, available and promoted amongst widespread consumers.

To help tackle this you can source higher quality hosiery or leggings and research the brands´ vision that you purchase from. Seek companies that express their desire for change or that use green materials to manufacture products. This can make a huge difference in setting your own standards, as well as the industry standards, in where and how products are manufactured. In short, higher quality clothing made from better materials lasts much longer and therefore reduces the need for continuous mass production or fast fashion

We’d also like to stress the importance of looking after your clothes and extending garment life. If you look after an item and it lasts just 9 months longer than it would otherwise, WRAP predicts you can reduce its environmental impact by up to 20% to 30%. (A Taylor ‘Mind your manners; how throw away culture is destroying our planet’ Heroine 2018). We are not just looking at short term innovative ideas, take a second to contemplate the long-term effects your clothes could have on the environment too.

Contextually online apps are hugely important in driving the mindset that your old clothes are worthy of a new home. The globally known app Depop had around 11 million users in late 2018, (S Varghese ‘How Depop went from niche app to making second-hand clothing cool’ Wired 2018) The app has managed to infiltrate the fashion market, not only are millennials drawn to wearing recycled and vintage clothes, there driving the circular economy and presenting a sustainable way of fashion remodelling. Rehoming your old wardrobe can help you dispose of unwanted clothes, whilst allowing you to gain extra cash that you can invest into buying vintage clothes that you’re into!

Our vision

We want everyone to join our Sustainable Hosiery Initiative - revolution. This isn't just about pursuing a fashion brand; it's about creating a change and starting a revolutionary movement in sustainable hosiery. 

Out of the three styles in our first box, the 50 Denier ECO Tights are manufactured using recycled yarn. By using 91% recycled polyamide and 9% elastane, this is just the beginning of what we hope to achieve in showing our dedication to incorporating sustainability into our brand and our hope that we can prove sustainability is possible in the hosiery industry. Our packaging containing zero plastic and is 100% recyclable so there’s no reason for it to end up in a landfill. 

We know how tempting it can be to pursue on-trend clothes but upcycling old materials into new useable products is so valuable and effective in a world were landfills are constantly expanding. Don’t only take this inspiration from one product but rethink your whole wardrobe if you are thinking of disposing of any items, please donate to charity or pop them into apparel recycling bins.

We cannot miss that we even allow you to return any tights you might have lying around at home, even if they aren’t our brand! By sending them to us you’re allowing us to recycle them for you free of charge. The Legwear Co’s vision is to recover as much waste hosiery in your households as we can, so that we can retain these recycled materials and continue to pursue innovative ways to recycle your tights. This incentive would surely persuade anyone to package up and send any old tights free of charge, knowing that the materials aren't going to waste and could be used to develop future products for our customers.

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