An awkward fit

A young woman holds up two dresses from a clothes rack while shopping.
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An awkward fit

By Alex Robinson and Aoife Allen, 11th April 2024


Fashion has been part of Hubbub’s work since day one. Shifting our habits around the clothes we wear could have a huge impact, helping to reshape our consumer culture and an industry that accounts for a whopping 10% of global carbon emissions by some estimates. But truth be told, this one has been heading in the wrong direction. Just look around: we’re in the era of ultra-fast fashion.

This week I’m passing the keyboard to my colleague Aoife, who asks why much of the fashion industry has struggled to make meaningful progress on sustainability - and how new regulations and increased transparency are about to shake things up. Despite the challenges, Aoife and the team have been applying Hubbub’s approach with partners in the fashion industry: read on to find out how we’re making clothing last longer, boosting innovation and much more…

Alex Robinson

CEO, Hubbub

Sustainability and the fast-paced churn of the fashion industry have always been uneasy partners. For many brands, the core of their business model – producing and selling more clothes at mind-boggling pace and scale – runs counter to the need for longevity and environmental responsibility.

At Hubbub, we see a more responsible fashion industry as a top priority for driving impactful change. But it's not easy to secure meaningful partnerships with the power and influence to create that impact. Fashion is a creative sector by nature, and attracts some of the most innovative minds in business. So why isn’t the sector’s creativity being directed towards tackling its environmental impact?

Where to start?

First, there’s the sheer complexity of the challenge. Issues include waste and emissions in production, microfibre pollution when products are in use, and a lack of recycling for textiles at end of life. Where to start?

There’s also often a lack of collective problem solving or focus on large scale solutions. Many brands have innovative but small-scale sustainability projects and trials running, but neglect to attempt business transformation or impact at scale.

And public awareness of the issue is low. Research from Hubbub published last Autumn found that just over half of respondents agreed that “fast fashion has a negative impact on the environment”. That’s a lot of people who simply aren’t making the link, and not calling on brands to improve their practices.

Change is coming

But change is coming. Regulations like Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) rolling out across Europe will hold businesses accountable for their products at end of life. And the Competition and Markets Authority is cracking down on unsubstantiated green claims – promoting transparency in how textile products are marketed and described off the back of recent investigation into Asda, ASOS and Boohoo. Now brands have a clear, stringent set of guidance for what’s permissible, and not, and vague or inflated claims simply won’t wash anymore.

While we wait for the greater transparency and improvements that these regulations should spark, Hubbub is focusing on the small but critical piece in this complex puzzle - nudging more sustainable choices. Systems change is critical, but we can support people with inspiration and tips for cherishing, repairing, and passing on rather than discarding unwanted garments.

Here’s how we’re making a difference. I hope these case studies spark your imagination, because we’re genuinely interested to hear your ideas about what comes next. So please, get in touch - I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

Aoife Allen

Director, Hubbub

The Worn Out study with Primark

Our research on durability with the University of Leeds, supported by Primark, showed that shoppers can’t rely on price as an indication of clothing’s durability. We also ran a behaviour change trial to test ways of prompting better garment care, with encouraging results. The findings helped to raise awareness of durability as an environmental issue and Primark are leading the call on the rest of the fashion industry to improve durability standards.

A young woman with curly hair is standing smiling while operating a machine in a lab.

Lace Up For Longer with Nicholas Kirkwood

Hubbub joined forces with shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood to help people prolong the life of trainers through care and repair. The campaign highlighted that trainers are incredibly complex to recycle and are frequently thrown away. Informed by Hubbub polling, Lace Up For Longer ran as a digital campaign and used creative content to share knowledge on how to restore trainers, and DIY care tips to keep them on our feet for as long as possible.

A pair of Gola trainers (white with bright colourful accents) on a workbench. The trainers are visibly not new, but look fresh and well looked after.

Driving innovation in fashion with eBay

eBay’s Circular Fashion Fund is changing the future of circular fashion by funding innovative ideas developed by budding start-up businesses. Since the launch of the fund in 2022, Hubbub has been a key delivery partner. Through amplifying, judging the fund and mentoring finalists, we’ve supported eBay in seeking out ground-breaking solutions that will make the fashion industry more circular. These include Swoperz, a subscription service for pre-loved children's clothing, and Loanhood a provider of digital fashion rental marketplace solutions for businesses.

A young blonde woman smiles and poses in front of rollout banners that read 'Loanhood rental studio'. She is wearing a stylish red and blue top with cutout sections over the shoulders and arms.

Sharing children's clothing with Mothercare

Gift A Bundle was a community-inspired campaign that helped parents pass on outgrown children’s clothing to support families and reduce waste, using Mother’s Day as an annual hook. In collaboration with Mothercare, Gift A Bundle ran in 42 stores. Just over 6,000 clothing bundles were generously gifted and distributed to 43 local groups and charities to pass on to families. Now we’re looking for ways to take this hugely valuable approach to scale across the UK.

A donation station placed on a shop floor, in the midst of baby clothes. The station's design reads 'Gift a bundle and support local mums this mother's day'

Are you a business that wants to collaborate?

If you have a challenge to share, or want to get involved with our work, we'd love to hear from you.

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