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‘Green’ is the new black in global fashion trends

June 26,2017
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From top, Nepa’s eco graphic T-shirt made from recycled plastic bottles; Adidas’ Ultra Boost running shoes based on ocean waste and Black Yak’s eco-friendly water-repelling pants. [JOONGANG ILBO]
Upcycling, or transforming recycled goods into a new product of higher quality, is a rising trend in the global retail industry. Zurich-based Freitag, who started making bags out of truck tarpaulins in 1993, is considered the creator of the movement.

The upcycling movement among outdoor and sportswear brands in Korea was particularly active this month as World Environment Day falls on June 5 every year. These products are not only eco-friendly, but cater to consumers that seek functionality and good design.

Outdoor brand Nepa recently unveiled two “eco graphic” T-shirts that use thread extracted from recycled plastic bottles. Both variations have monotone colors that are easy to match with other items and simple logo designs on the chest.

“Nepa’s eco graphic T-shirts were devised to help consumers engage in environment protection by simply buying our product,” said Lee Hee-joo, a senior executive at the outdoor brand. “The aim was to fulfill Nepa’s social responsibility as a major outdoor brand.”

Competitor K2 last month unveiled the WWF Collection in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature - a non-governmental organization that promotes wilderness preservation. Materials used for the product line are all ecofriendly including sorona, a fabric based on corn, organic cotton and pulp made of bamboo sticks.

Black Yak officially launched the Yak Green Ecofriendly Policy 2.0 last year, aimed to develop PFC-free products. Short for perfluorinated compounds, PFC is a greenhouse gas and an artificial chemical substance used in many outdoor products for its water repellency. Some global fashion companies like Gore-Tex recently banned its usage after green activists raised issues of PFC’s harmfulness to the human body and greenhouse gas emissions. Black Yak followed suit and released a series of water-repellant pants that use ecofriendly fabric last year.

The company plans to take this project further in 2020. “Ecofriendly policies are no longer a choice, but have become a must and we intend to focus on sustainable growth which we can share with future generations,” said Black Yak Chairman Kang Tae-sun, at a Yak Green event earlier this month.

Among sports brands, Adidas is making significant attempts to go green. Last month, it released two running shoes - Ultra Boost Parley and Ultra Boost Uncaged Parley - both made from plastic waste found in the sea. The plastic was found in the Maldives during ocean purification. For every pair of shoes, 11 plastic bottles are consumed.

Adidas has teamed up with Parley for the Oceans, an activist organization to protect the sea, for the Ultra Boost series since 2016. Last year, only 100 pairs were released for sale in Korea but the product sold out within a day. While the shoe lace and fabric that surrounds the ankles are made from ocean waste, the sole is applied with Adidas’ latest cushioning technology dubbed the “boost” and is similar to other running shoes from the brand.

Fast-fashion brands perceived to value cost efficiency are also making efforts to go green. H&M’s “Conscious Exclusive” collection this year presents clothing made of polyester from recycled plastic and organic silk. “It’s a collection to please all our senses, and also our desire to be sustainable in everything we do,” said Pernilla Wohlfahrt, H&M’s Head of Design and Creative Director.


BY JANG JOO-YOUNG AND SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]