Uniqlo is continuing to show progress in their efforts to encourage repair, reuse and recycling among its customers as they seek to shift 50% of their production to recycled materials by 2030. They have also partnered with the Italian upcycling fashion platform, Must Had. It’s great to see a mainstream fashion brand begin its journey on upcycling and reuse.
The fashion industry is a big contributor to global warming, and the constant cycle of buying new, and not wearing for long, needs to be rethought if we are to address its negative impacts.
As WRAP, the climate NGO, have established by “Extending the life of clothes by just nine extra months of active use would reduce carbon, water and waste footprints by around 20-30% each.”
So, what have Uniqlo started so far in their partnership with Must Had?
- They’ve looked at their own fashion waste… They are now donating the textile waste that they produce, (e.g. deadstock, defective or returned clothing). Must Had goes onto re-distribute this ‘waste’ to brands in its community to beupcycled, revalued and put back into circulation through its resale site.
- They’ve created visibility of the partnership in their Milan store – introducing their new Uniqlo Studio into the Milan store with Uniqlo x Must Had merchandise along with an education area to learn about how to repair / repurpose clothes. This follows the launch of the Re.Uniqlo concept in some UK, US and Asian stores with more to come.
- Upcycled Fitting Rooms – they’ve introduced fitting room curtains made from Must Had fabric recycled in their Milan and Copenhagen stores. The curtains are made from unused furniture fabrics, upcycled by Batna. It’s not just the fabric that’s been considered by Must Had, but the people too, with the curtains made by communities in need – asylum seekers and prison inmates at Turin prison.
So why do these new Uniqlo initiatives matter and what impact might they have?
Uniqlo most trusted fashion brand in Singapore
From data from recent work by our sister agency 2CV Singapore we have seen that Singaporean consumers rated Uniqlo with the strongest performance overall within the ‘Fashion and Style’ brands category, beating the likes of Love, Bonito (a Singaporean company), H&M, Shein, ASOS and Zalora. This strong performance was in part due to it’s substantially higher score for ‘Trust.’
Sustainability isn’t yet at the top of consumer priorities when buying apparel in Asia, but recently there are signs that this is changing, and a genuine commitment to an ethical supply chain is a differentiator which may build trust and enhance brand appeal among certain customer types
As with other markets, brand imagery and messaging around sustainability will resonate more with some consumers than others. Asia is a big place and there are a lot of local nuances, but historically a commitment to the environment or sustainability has been lower down the list of motivations for purchasing apparel in Asia compared to price, style and convenience but recently there are signs this is changing. However, Trust is the number one reason – so it’s vital that in making a commitment to sustainability, it is authentic and delivers genuine progress and fewer negative impacts.
Remake. Reuse. Recycle in-store experiences
One thing we know is that in-store experience is critical in apparel and offering unique experiences/ talks/ re-use offerings will increase footfall and conversion. Across Asia, physical retail has resurged following Covid – when buying fashion, clothing and accessories, 23% of Singaporean shopper prefer to buy in-store and 45% prefer a mix of online and offline. So, there’s a big demand among Singaporean shoppers to use physical fashion retailers rather than online ones.
It’s great to see a major accessible fashion brand starting to embrace more circular thinking. We will watch on with interest to see how Uniqlo continues to accelerate their sustainability journey. We hope very much hope that Must Had have the opportunity to partner with more fashion brands ensuring that – ‘everything deserves a second chance.’