Waste Not Want Not: Fashion Brands Unite to Donate Unwanted Materials to Students

We have all heard of the phrase one person’s trash is another man’s treasure, and the fashion industry is proving that this is very much the case.

The British Fashion Council has kickstarted a programme, named the Student Fabric Initiative, which involves designers donating their unwanted materials to UK fashion students. 24 brands, including big names such as Victoria Beckham and Paul Smith have joined the initiative, to deliver their unused resources to 33 colleges throughout the UK.

The BFC has already trialled the same idea, in partnership with Burberry. The ReBurberry initiative saw the brand donate unwanted materials to students, creating a model for other brands to follow in the process. Burberry set up its own ‘centralised logistics process’ for the donation of unwanted materials, allowing other brands and colleges to join in.

Essentially the ReBurberry Initiative acted as a steppingstone for the Student Fabric Initiative, with more brands now getting involved in the process.

The logistics of the Student Fashion Initiative will be monitored by the British Fashion Council this time around but Burberry will still be involved, as it is paying for the delivery costs of the fabrics. Matches.fashion.com is also helping with the fabric distribution, with creative consultant at the brand Cozette McCreery supporting the initiative. Storage space provider Fora is involved too.  

Whilst the main goal of the Student Fabric Initiative is to help the students who have struggled to gain access to materials during the Coronavirus pandemic, it will also aid the fashion industry in becoming more sustainable. With statistics such as that 35% of materials end up as waste before they have even reached the customer, not only is the initiative giving valuable materials to those that need it but also making a dent in the huge amounts of waste that the industry produces.  

It seems to be a win-win situation for all, with chief executive of the BFC , Caroline Rush, saying: “One of the BFC’s priorities is to encourage the industry to move towards a circular economy, whilst supporting excellence in fashion design.”

The initiative is also another glowing example of how amazing results can be achieved when fashion brands come together. Just like ‘The Italy project’, where the Apparel Impact Institute (AII) assembles brands and factories together to achieve more sustainable results, the Student Fabric Initiative has the potential to tackle environmental issues in the fashion industry by putting on a united front.

With a plethora of brands following the same model of donating unwanted fabrics, positive change seems to be on the horizon. Creating collective networks, with everyone on the same page, seems to be the way forward in creating a more sustainable fashion industry. 

As Caroline says: “Being able to help students in need while managing to offset waste is an important example of the power of industry-wide collaboration.”

We are very aware of how devastating the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic have been, but it is reassuring to see that even a slither of good has come out of it. As writer Charlie Porter, who has also supported the initiative, said: ‘this collective action is a response to the pandemic but will hopefully become a model for how designers and brands can give back in the years ahead.’

In the road to sustainability within the fashion industry, baby steps and collaboration are the way forward, and this is certainly a unified step in the right direction.