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Trending: New Circular Solutions Aim to Eliminate Waste from Kids' Clothing

Image Credit: Petit Pli

When it comes to sustainable fashion, the contribution of children’s clothing to the textile waste problem is often overlooked. While the sector represents only 12 percent of overall market share, it constitutes a considerable portion of the 26 billion pounds of textiles entering landfills each year. Children themselves embody the fast fashion model, with their rapid growth rate requiring a constant flow of new clothing to keep up with lengthening limbs and expanding feet. While hand-me-downs and secondhand clothing offer an effective way to drive down costs and impacts, intervening at the design and production stage will be key in inducing and industry-wide shift. The launch of two new apparel products could prove to be important catalysts for change.

Thirty-eight million children’s shoes are produced each year, but with children’s feet growing half a shoe size every three months, a considerable portion of this staggering figure finds its way into landfill long before the useful end of life. In an effort to reduce waste, designer Thomas Leech has developed a new concept for footwear that keeps products and materials in use.

Shoey Shoes presents a circular model for the shoe industry by offering a shoe subscription service for growing feet. The program models a leasing scheme in which shoes engineered for disassembly are returned to the manufacturer once a child outgrows them. Worn parts are replaced and materials are separated for reprocessing.

While the concept is an appealing one, it still remains hypothetical. The project stems from Leech’s desire to turn byproducts from the leather industry that would otherwise wind up in landfill into valuable products, making Shoey Shoes a solution to a right-now problem with questions marks arising about the feasibility of the model in the future. Additionally, due to the use of non-traditional adhesive — which facilitates disassembly — the shoes are not waterproof.

“The big irony with shoes is that we say we want them waterproof, but there’s a big hole in the top where you put your foot in anyway. Because my shoes did not create that fully waterproof seal that you can get with adhesives, I was always cautious about how far the project could go,” said Leech.

However, Leech isn’t letting a few small road bumps impede his progress. “The shoe is still progressing — my project is not going to be hung out to dry. It’s still going on and it’s actually gathered quite a lot of momentum,” he added. “I know that something will happen in the future with this and I’d like to be a part of that story.”

Meanwhile, Ryan Mario Yasin, a former aeronautical engineer and graduate of the Royal College of Arts has designed a line of clothing aimed at reducing the amount of children’s clothing thrown away each year.

Dubbed Petit Pli, the line is characterized by a pleated system comprised of ultra-lightweight, waterproof and breathable textiles that stretch with a child as it grows. Yasin came up with the idea after repeatedly buying clothing for his nephew only to find that he outgrew them within a few months of their purchase. The clothes can expand to fit kids between the ages of six months to 36 months, a period during which children typically grow seven sizes.

The design itself grew out of Yasin’s years of designing deployable structures in the aeronautical industry, which require carbon fiber panels to fit into small spaces and later unfold into a specific shape when operational.

“The structure deforms with the movement of the child, expanding and contracting in synchrony with their motion. If this concept was actually going to enter the market, I felt that I couldn’t focus on technology that was too far away from being market ready — shape memory polymers for instance. Pleats was a simple solution,” said Yasin.

The designer is currently in the process of obtaining a patent for Petit Pli and is seeking funding to produce early runs of the line in the UK.

A similar product recently received recognition in the 5th annual Cradle to Cradle Product Design Challenge. Students from the Savannah College of Art and Design were awarded a prize for the Best Use of Cradle to Cradle Certified Materials for their Scout Rain Jacket, a children’s jacket that can be adjusted both horizontally and vertically, allowing the jacket to “grow” along with the child. The jacket used materials from the Fashion Positive Material Collection and specified Natura Sewing Yarn and Dystar Textile Dyes.

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