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5 Creative Approaches to Sustainable Business Models

Everyone's got their own perspective. If two people were staring at the same cloud, there would be two very different images until one explains what they see to the other, and the other attempts to see it from their view. I think this is the most simple form of brainstorming. We all have our own opinion on the "best" thing to do and what is "right" based on the information at hand. Taking a step back and seeing things from others' perspectives only helps us search for concrete answers. So today, we're taking a look at 5 different approaches to sustainable business models from several brands' perspectives.


Levi's announced their partnership with Trove last year to implement Levi's SecondHand marketplace. With a hot demand for the perfect faded Levi's 501s, it's not only a venture that will divert old Levi's from becoming waste, but it is also a huge opportunity to take control of the legacy of your products. Claiming this is the first program of it's kind, Levi's will offer $15-$25 for denim that can be resold and $30-$35 for vintage denim. For denim that is too worn, it will offer $5 towards a future purchase.

Nudie Jean's re-commerce program has proven to be a huge success. The Reuse program started somewhere back in 2012, with the official launch in 2013. Pre-loved Nudie Jeans can be exchanged for a 20% Reuse-discount on a new pair of jeans, and the beautifully mended Reuse jeans (second hand) can be bought in the shop/online.

Tommy Hilfiger has also embraced the re-commerce trend with Tommy For Life. The program is divided into 3 categories Reloved, Refreshed and Remixed. Reloved includes secondhand items that consumers have returned and offers a discount based on how much you return for reuse! You'll get €5.00 for t-shirts and tops, €10.00 for bottoms, blouses and shirts, €15.00 for sweaters, dresses, cardigans and bags, and €20.00 for coats, jackets and blazers. Refreshed includes recovered pieces from in-store and online returns, and lastly, Remixed consists of upcycled Tommy products that could no longer be repaired or resold.

The one question with these incentive programs is, does this encourage more consumption?

Levi Strauss says, "getting consumers to look at secondhand, or vintage, with a new lens is essential because the fashion industry is continuing to produce an unprecedented number of garments every year."

We have to train the consumer to think differently, and positive reinforcement can definitely help.


GANNI Repeat x Levi's was a fantastic experiment for circular collaborations. The GANNI Repeat rental platform allowed users to rent the upcycled Levi's pieces for 1 - 3 weeks with NO option to buy, fostering a community of wearers keeping the cycle of renting going. A waste-free collaboration. Pretty cool idea! Can't wait to see the long term implications for a program like this :)

By now, we are all familiar with Mud Jeans' Lease A Jeans program. This program has been going strong for 8 years, and unlike most brands, Mud's Rental program takes back your rented jeans and actually recycles them into new Mud Jeans. We know how hard it is to do so with an underwhelming estimation of 1% of garments getting recycled.


Unspun is the first to launch made-to-order jeans designed with circularity in mind. Every pair of jean is made on-demand, meaning no excess inventory, using a body scan from your mobile phone or in-store experience. This type of sizing software might not have been too accurate and an unpleasant experience in the past, but I have had a friend who has the perfect pair of custom jeans from Unspun. This leads me to believe that this technology is ready to rock with Unpsun leading the way.


The question with upcycling has always been scale, but more and more factories are willing to deconstruct and reconstruct pre-loved denim themselves or through collaborations. Blue Of A Kind and Atelier & Repairs have been two brands partnering with mills and manufacturers to upcycle defects, samples, and deadstock pieces, but the upcycling process takes time! We need more upcycling capacity for this to be adopted by the masses.

"Getting more use out of existing products is the single biggest move we can make toward a more circular and sustainable supply chain," says Andy Ruben, founder and C.E.O. of Trove.


E.L.V Denim first caught my eye with their high quality upcycled denim designs at London Fashion Week a few years ago. But, as I got to know the brand and company better, I realized there was more to it than making waste beautiful. By striving to have as low a footprint as possible, E.L.V. Denim also actively supports the local maker community with its 5-step supply chain. The first step is sourcing the pieces needed to fill an order (no overproduction). Next, the family launderer comes in their electric car to wash the pre-loved jeans. The washed jeans are then repaired and paired by the E.L.V. team and taken to Black Horse Lane down the road. Leather labels are the waste from a leather manufacturer, and any waste goes to made-to-order kid's jeans, Ian Berry, or local uni's. Everything is within a 5-mile radius keeping the carbon footprint low while working with the local community.

These 5 approaches might seem radically different from traditional business models, but I see it as an evolution rather than radical change.

I am very inspired by E.L.V. Denim's hyper-local supply chain because we're tired of the complexities in fashion, being told everything is more complicated than it appears. But what if we strive for simplicity? Could we evolve into shorter, leaner, more specialized supply chains? Would this allow us to focus on reverse logistics to deal with our own waste and create a real circular industry?

Some questions I'd love to hear your thoughts on! In the meantime, catch up with me over on @SimplySuzette and STAY DILIGENT FRIENDS! :')


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