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Part 1: The Industry

Why close the loop?

15 DECEMBER 2021
The fashion industry is trapped in a broken cycle because trends come and go at breakneck speed, creating stress and waste for brands, people, and natural resources. Fashion is such an important part of our lives (naturally!), but sadly, it’s also a significant contributor to the climate crisis, because of this, we must build a smarter fashion industry.
The carbon footprint of the fashion industry was 4% of the global total in 2018 (McKinsey & Company and Global Fashion Agenda). This equals the combined annual footprint of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. It is predicted that over the next decade, beyond measures already in place, the industry’s carbon dioxide emissions will likely rise to an annual volume growth rate of 2.7% (McKinsey & Company and Global Fashion Agenda).
At Otrium, our philosophy is that a fashion item that’s produced as a creative passion for humans, using materials extracted from earth, shouldn't collect dust in a warehouse or end up in landfill. 
We’d love to see a future where every clothing item produced is worn, and we’re working with hundreds of brand partners to achieve this.. Through our brand partnerships, we aim to reduce the overall amount of waste in the industry and follow a more circular approach. 
Since the industrial revolution, the fashion industry has been dominated by a one-way, linear model of production and consumption, raw materials are collected, transformed into short lived products, and then thrown away. Currently, approximately one in every ten items of clothing produced, or more than $200 billion worth, stay unsold, sitting in warehouses. Fashion and the freedom of self expression that clothing offers us, is not to be wasted. We’re here to change the status quo. 
We believe that fashion’s linear ‘take-make-waste’ model can be transformed into a circular approach that is restorative and regenerative by design. To help diminish the take-make-waste pattern, we are attempting to close the loop. As an industry with inherent waste, one of which has such a large impact on people and the environment, we want to make it our responsibility to start by closing the loop. It’s time to design out waste:
Circularity or the circular economy is a system of closed loops in which raw materials, components and products loose as little value as possible renewable energy sources are used, and systems thinking is used. 
Much like the circle shape, the garments and products are put back into the cycle of the industry, rather than ending up in landfill sites or disregarded as waste. This is a purpose we care about at Otrium. 
Today, consumers care more about what they buy and how it will impact people and the environment. Our own research found that ⅓ of our customers are ‘Sustainable Shoppers’. When shopping at Otrium, these shoppers can be reassured that we are working towards a more circular future for fashion. 
Let’s be the solution, let’s become circular. 
Read more about our impact here:
  • Impact Progress Report
  • Fashion Impact Report
  • Carbon Footprint Report

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Conscious Series: A-dam

Otrium is committed to a future where all clothing produced is worn. We aim to empower our customers to shop responsibly. We teamed up with Good On You, the leading source for fashion brand sustainability ratings, to highlight brands on our platform that are making a difference.This month, we chatted with John Vonk, Creative Campaign Manager and Chief Responsibility at A-dam, a down-to-earth brand with a child-like curiosity founded in Amsterdam. What does sustainability mean to you?‘’Sustainability in the fashion industry is super rare. It’s why we don’t use that word too much. We prefer saying we’re responsible. About the products we produce, how we produce them, and the daily choices we make. To us, sustainability is something we strive for every single day. And since the meaning of it changes all the time, we keep on reflecting on the things we do and look at how we can improve those things on all levels.’’  What philosophy does  A-dam live by?‘’A better world is created together. And if we all start making conscious choices we believe we can help turn the world into paradise. That’s why friendly fabrics, excellent labour conditions, and clean production methods are the cherry on top of our playful apparel. Next to being as responsible as possible, we applaud everyone who follows their passion as long as they don’t harm anything or anyone along the way. We believe anything and everything is possible as long as you do it with character. Consciousness is key, character is king!’’ What is your role at A-dam & how did you get there? ‘’I wear a couple of hats at A-dam. The most important roles are Campaign Manager, Creative Copywriter, and Chief Responsibility. I landed here after I visited the office because the swim shorts I bought were the wrong size. I got to talking to the owners and a month later I got my own desk. That’s almost 4 years ago now.’’ Where did the journey of A-dam start?‘’The journey of A-dam started in 2014 after one of the founders noticed there was no good choice for men’s boxers in the underwear department. Instead of complaining, he decided to start his own brand. Fast forward 8 years later: A-dam has successfully helped change the underwear sector and transformed into a full-scale clothing company focused on making a positive impact on the world through responsible fashion.’’ What achievement are you most proud of?‘’Keeping our head above water during and after the pandemic is not something we’re necessarily proud of, but we are glad we’re still here, healthy and growing. If we have to name one specific thing it’s probably the entire team at A-dam putting in the sweat and tears every day. Our office is like a playground and it’s fun to see everybody continuously playing around, improving their skills and creating magic for and with A-dam.’’ What are you working on at the moment?‘’At the moment we’re in the process of a lot of exciting things. One of them being the becoming of a B-Corp certified company. We’re in the midst of it and we’re hoping to be able to call ourselves B-Corp before the summer of this year (2023).’’ What is the biggest challenge on the roadmap of improvements for you at A-dam?‘’Our biggest challenge regarding improvements at the moment is keeping focus. There’s so much to do, but only so much you can do. Prioritising in a world of constant distractions is a daily struggle. We have to keep on reminding ourselves to try and do one thing at a time. And, instead of trying to get it 100% right on the first try, build on an MVP basis and go from there.’’  Could you tell us more about the improvements that you are currently working on?‘’Innovating, creating and improving are our second nature. This also means that we keep looking at our entire organisation to see where improvements can be made. On a product level that means using planet-friendly materials and packaging that isn’t harmful or that is recyclable. It also means not jumping on the innovation train too quickly, as innovations need some time and proof to see if they’re actually improvements or just ‘new and exciting’. On a more holistic level, it means constantly looking at our performance on an environmental, social and economical level. Becoming a B-Corp company will help a lot in that respect. Lastly, at the moment we’re a carbon-neutral company, which is great, but we’re looking to become the first carbon-negative company, meaning that we’re going to double down on our offset.’’  Your factories are certified by Social Accountability International - SA8000 and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) - very impressive! What is your relationship to these certifications and what does it mean to you?‘’For us, it’s not about having the certifications, it’s about working at keeping them. These external parties do yearly assessments of our entire production process and we see it as our duty to make sure we get through them with flying colors.’’ What do customers value most about the brand and products? ‘’It’s hard to speak for our customers, but if we have to say something it would probably be the durability of our products. Apart from our excellent customer service, we get the most positive feedback on this aspect of our products. And if we’re talking specifically about our underwear, comfort is way up there!’’ What is one thing you hope others will learn from your journey?‘’Being sustainable is an iterative journey, not just a box you tick off and certainly not defined to a few specific aspects of a brand or product. It’s about the bigger picture.’’  Do you have a philosophy/ quote you live by? ‘’Less saying, more doing.’’
At Otrium, we champion a future where all clothing produced is worn. Our core mission is to connect unsold inventory with potential owners, ensuring a win-win situation for brands and consumers alike. Ultimately, we aim to prevent this unsold stock from ending up in landfills. Alongside this mission, we aim to empower our customers to shop responsibly through our collaboration with Good on You, a leading impartial organisation that rates brands against three key criteria - labour rights, environmental impact, and animal welfare. In line with this partnership, we’re showcasing brands for whom conscious fashion is at the very heart of what they do.This month, we chat with Niels Eskildsen, CEO and co-founder of Designers Remix.Sustainability: what does it mean to you?“To me the word sustainability defines the concept of the current generation's ability to meet our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. But we are usually  cautious to use the words sustainability and fashion together and prefer to talk about responsible fashion at Designers Remix.”Can you tell us more about Designers Remix?“Designers Remix was founded in Copenhagen in 2002 by my wife and me, based upon an idea of making full use of already existing resources by redesigning, remixing, and upcycling deadstock fabrics and garments.” Deadstock fabrics are leftover fabrics used for other reasons and left behind for various reasons, initially causing fabric waste. By using this kind of fabric, we don’t need to increase the demand for newly produced fabrics, which is less harmful to the environment. “Ever since the start, it has been our mission to make fashion better.”What is your role at Designers Remix & how did you get there?“I’m the Co-Founder and CEO of Designers Remix and you could say that it was coincidence and love that got me mixed up in fashion as my wife, Charlotte Eskildsen, is the creative brain behind Designers Remix.”Where did the journey of Designers Remix start?“To be honest, when we started back in 2002, we didn’t know anything about sustainability. We were very inspired by the concept of upcycling or creative re-use as we call it, where we could transform unwanted products into new exciting products. Over the years we started to develop normal collections but always with upcycling as our main design philosophy.”Could you share a bit more about the challenges of achieving garment certifications?“Before starting a certification process there are several things you need to have aligned. Firstly, it is important to have the buy-in from the management/owners as it will make the products more expensive. Do I have the buy-in from the design team as they will have less fabric options available? Is the supply chain certified? Your suppliers from cradle to gate need to be certified in order for the garments to become certified. Lastly, which certifications are actually making sense for the brand? And then you can start with the actual certification process…”You’re currently working on getting garments GOTS certified, what does the process look like? ?“We got the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Global Recycling Standard (GRS) certifications in late spring this year and we will have the first certified products arriving in stores on our pre-spring collection.” The GOTS standard is the worldwide certification standard when it comes to organic textile production. It’s based on ecological and social values. The entire supply chain is reviewed and certified.What is the biggest challenge in getting the full supply chain from cotton fibre to final garment GOTS certified?“For us, it has been that some of our key suppliers who we have worked with for years weren’t certified. We try to persuade them that it would be a good investment for them, not only better for the planet, but also for their own business.”What do customers value most about your brand and the garments?“At the end of the day we are a fashion brand and we hope that our customers buy a product from us because they think it’s a beautiful garment. I hope that the fact that we try to make fashion better would make them feel even more attached to the product and take good care of it.”You’re working on getting the official B Corp certification. What is your motivation to become a B-corp?“B Corp is for us the ‘Rolls-Royce’ of certifications as it certifies not only a product but your company. We just received news that we have become B Corp certified with a certification score of 99.5.”B Corp is a third party certification that meets the highest standards of overall social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability. It assesses the overall impact of a company. To become certified, a business must score 80/200 points divided over five categories: governance, employees, community, environment, and customers, next to changing the company articles of association. Companies need to re-certify every three years.What are the most important learnings from the process so far? “Certifications take time and it’s important to do your homework properly before you start.”Where do you see your brand in 5 years? - What do you want to have achieved by then?“Hopefully still making beautiful long lasting garments in a more responsible way. And if we all have had fun doing so then it has been a good ride.”What will the perfect future of the fashion industry look like?“Less fast fashion and more quality fashion. We need to buy less but better pieces of garments, that last longer!”What is one thing you hope others will learn from your journey?“It’s never too late to start being more responsible.”How do you stay optimistic and persistent in the fight against climate change?“By looking at my kids every day…”Do you have a pro tip for extending the life cycle of your wardrobe?“Read the care label!”Do you have a book recommendation?“Bill Gates ”How to avoid a climate disaster” is a must-read and “The Anomaly” by Hervé le Tellier has a really crazy ending (do not cheat and read the last page…).”What’s the most important aspect you keep in mind when shopping for sustainable fashion? “Quality – Quality – Quality.”Do you have a philosophy or quote you live by?“It’s translated from Danish but I hope you get the point ‘The only thing that comes from doing nothing are dust bunnies’.”What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? “It’s not advice but a quote by Robert Swan ‘The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.’”What’s a quick change people could make in terms of being more sustainable? “Luckily there are so many small changes people can make, eat less meat, take the bike sometimes, and when it comes to buying clothes buy less but better.”
At Otrium, we are committed to a fashion industry where all clothing is worn. Our mission is to place unsold fashion items in the wardrobes of those who will actually wear it. This means we try to limit the clothing that ends up in landfills. Alongside this mission, we aim to empower our customers to shop consciously through our collaboration with Good on You, a leading impartial organization that rates brands on their sustainability efforts. Together, we’re showcasing brands making an impact.This month, we meet Jennifer Lui, the Vice President of Public Relations and Sustainability at ESPRIT.Where did the journey of ESPRIT begin?“ESPRIT was founded in California by environmentalists Susie and Doug Tompkins in 1968. Ever since then, we have continuously strived towards creating authentic fashion with mindfully designed collections’’.Sustainability: what does it mean to you?‘’I personally believe that it takes a comprehensive understanding of sustainability to generate a lasting impact that benefits people and the planet. We need both private and public sectors to invest in sustainability initiatives and develop concepts, just as we need every individual and consumer to promote more conscious decisions in all aspects of life.’’Can you tell us more about the more conscious fabrics you are using?“In May 2018, we committed to the Roadmap Towards Responsible Viscose as outlined by the Changing Markets Foundation. In order to responsibly source cellulosic fabrics, it needs to come from properly managed forests, instead of endangered or old-growth forests. In  2015, we partnered with the environmental non-profit organization called Canopy. Through this initiative, we are able to ensure our cellulose fibers are not sourced from at-risk or old-growth forests.” Viscose is also known as biobased silk. Silk is made out of animal fibers, whereas viscose is made from bio-based fibers. Viscose is made from wood pulp, typically from trees such as pine, beech, and eucalyptus.The name is derived from the word “viscous”, where cellulose fibers are transformed into viscose using a viscous liquid. “Recently ESPRIT became a contributor to the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA). OCA is an organization that aims to create a better, more transparent, and responsible organic cotton supply chain. The organization wants to do this by improving the livelihoods and incomes of farmers while educating them on new practices that are less harmful to the earth.”  OCA runs different programs, such as seed, farm, and innovation programs, where a global collective with brands, retailers, supply chain partners, civil society organizations, philanthropic foundations, and academics are united to help with to reach these goals.“Cotton makes up more than half of the Company’s total fiber usage. To secure the future supply of this raw material, ESPRIT is exploring in-conversion projects that support conventional cotton farmers’ transition to certified organic cotton. Working with OCA, we aim to ensure farmers have committed procurement and receive premium payments as well as participation in training and development using best practice methods across organic farming.”What achievements are you most proud of?“Our commitment to contributing to a circular fashion-industry puts focus and priority on extending the product life of our clothing. I am proud of ESPRIT’s collection of timeless, high-quality versatile pieces. It is perfect for someone who likes to mix and match, just like I do.Acting responsibly in all aspects of our business and being committed to respecting human rights contribute to our long-term success at ESPRIT. Examples are our Code of Conduct and transparent stakeholder engagement. We’re striving to operate responsibly along the entire value chain, by safeguarding the rights of our employees and the workers who manufacture our products.”What are you working on at the moment?“Our most recent project is the ESPRIT Futura Hub. We recently opened three hubs in New York, London, and Amsterdam. The three ESPRIT Futura hubs aim to create transformative change in culture, mindset, and business process, discover new growth opportunities for ESPRIT, and improve innovation performance.”What is the biggest challenge on the roadmap of improvements for you at ESPRIT?“Calculating carbon footprint is not an easy task, as ESPRIT works with external production partners only. In 2021, we rolled out its data system to retrieve carbon footprint data from all our suppliers, based on ESPRIT’s production volume. These so-called Scope 3 emissions are by far the majority of the brand’s footprint. Together with our suppliers and partners, ESPRIT is working on solutions to improve our footprint. The next step requires the need to consider reduction targets. This will be one of ESPRIT’s biggest challenges within the coming years.”You are aiming towards circularity at ESPRIT. What are you doing to work towards these goals?“Circularity is the guiding principle behind ESPRIT’s strategy. We choose high-quality materials and fabrics that are ethically sourced, emphasizing recycled and more sustainable materials. This entails choosing non-synthetic fabrics and natural materials over synthetic, using recycled down feathers instead of virgin feathers, choosing recycled fabrics whenever possible, etc. We consider whether these materials and finished garments can be recycled or repurposed to give them a second life.  When incorporating recycled materials back into the production process, we are supporting a circular economy by reducing the need for more virgin raw materials.”How do you stay optimistic and persistent in the fight against climate change?“Everyone who takes an active step towards sustainable living is working towards the common goal – which is to preserve our planet. It can be in the form of being a more conscious shopper and avoiding overconsumption, choosing electric cars over conventional cars, having a greener diet, and encouraging hand-me-down children’s clothing amongst friends. I am quite an optimistic person in general and always believe that success is a result of a collective effort. Fighting against climate change is a collective action.”Do you have a pro-tip extending the life cycle of your wardrobe – how do you make sure your ESPRIT clothes last for longer?“To extend the life cycle of your wardrobe, choose brands that invest in making durable products. Another critical action is the way you wash your clothing. Small actions, such as lowering the washing temperature to cut down on overall energy consumption, have a positive impact on the environment.