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The running shoe on subscription: How fashion can be subscribed to sustainably

Julia Bernert

Published on 10.12.2020

Up to now, recycling has meant using recycled materials in the production of new clothing. Recycled polyester in particular is very suitable for this. Recycled polyester is not made from old clothing, however, but comes from old PET bottles or production waste. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this, but cycles in the clothing industry cannot be closed in this way. The unsolved problem remains: what happens to clothing at the end of its life cycle? There are neither nationwide take-back systems nor the appropriate recycling technologies. But there are first lighthouse projects.

The Norwegian outdoor brand Bergans of Norway just presented the further development of its “Collection of Tomorrow” and introduced the first fully recyclable shirt. It was developed together with the Finnish technology start-up Spinnova and the textile finisher Halley Stevensons and is based on the first fully recyclable backpack that Bergans presented for the first time last winter. Spinnova comes from the wood industry and has developed a process for the sustainable production of cellulose fibres that can be recycled again and again without losing quality. In order for Bergans to get the product back at the end of its life – which is the prerequisite for recycling – the buyer only acquires the right to use the material, but not the right to the product itself. If Bergans takes the old product back, the brand undertakes to make a new product from it and send it to the buyer again.

While the Bergans products are still in the pilot phase, the subscription model of the Swiss running brand On is already very concrete: for a monthly fee of 29.95 euros, subscribers are exclusively and automatically sent the latest running shoe model of their new recycled shoe “Cyclon”. It is made of completely recyclable materials and is returned to On at the end of its service life – which, according to On, is reached after six to nine months for active runners. Those who want to keep it are out of luck: On absolutely needs the shoes back, otherwise the necessary quantities for recycling are not available. On processes the old shoes into new ones and the subscriber gets a new pair. In autumn 2021, the first Cyclon shoes will be available in over 50 markets worldwide.

At On and Bergans, the subscription idea ensures the return of recyclable products. Subscriptions can also be used in other ways: British start-up The Devout launched in the summer with a fashion subscription for designer and everyday clothing for men and women with brands such as Levi’s, Tommy Jeans, Calvin Klein Jeans, Jack and Jones, Farah, Original Penguin and Vintage Ralph Lauren. For around 88 euros a month, subscribers can borrow five products a month. As soon as the garments can no longer be borrowed, they are put up for sale. All unsold items eventually end up in charity shops. The goal here is to use products more efficiently than before, on the one hand by extending their useful life and on the other hand by reducing the amount of clothing because several people use the same products.

Photos: On Running; Bergans of Norway