TECHNOLOGY | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Highlighting UNIQLO's sustainability initiatives on product design, production methods

The fashion retailer shares its efforts to contribute to sustainable stewardship of natural resources.

As the environmental impacts of clothing production have been more pronounced in recent years, companies are doing their part to ensure the sustainability of production and the responsible development of society through their businesses.

Fashion retailer UNIQLO has shared its efforts to contribute to the sustainable stewardship of natural resources, with a focus on the planet, people, and community in a webinar series presented by DesignSingapore Council on 20 January.

The webinar titled “Unlocking the Power of Clothing — UNIQLO Sustainability” tackles the steps the company has taken to accelerate the shift to a circular business approach, as well as the spirit behind its projects.

Eiko Sherba and Atsushi Tanaka, representatives from UNIQLO owner Fast Retailing, led the discussion.

Sustainability projects

With its mission to reduce waste, carbon dioxide emissions, and resource consumption throughout the product life cycle, the RE.UNIQLO initiative was launched to collect UNIQLO clothing no longer needed by customers and give them new value.

This initiative builds on the all-product recycling initiative that UNIQLO started in 2006.

Tanaka and Sherba mentioned that the first item made under RE.UNIQLO is the Down Recycling Project, which originated at the UNIQLO Paris R&D Centre and is overseen by artistic director Christophe Lemair. All of the down and feather from the new products comes from the 620,000 down jackets collected from customers.

Moreover, UNIQLO’s partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees allows the distribution of collected wearable clothing to refugees, disaster victims, and others in need. They noted that those deemed unwearable are then recycled into refuse paper and plastic fuel (RFP) pellets as a substitute for fossil fuels

Another sustainability project currently being undertaken by UNIQLO is BlueCycle, the sustainable denim programme at its Jeans Innovation Centre.

BlueCycle has been guided by UNIQLO’s dedication to creating the highest quality denim using the most sustainable practices, all without compromising design or comfort. From 2020, UNIQLO has shifted 100% of its global denim production to BlueCycle water reduction standards.

The project’s water reduction recipe includes three main phases: use of ozone and nano bubbles, use of eco stones, and use of laser technology to distress jeans. These aim to reduce water and chemical usage.

Taking sustainability into consideration, UNIQLO gives great importance to maximising the efficient use of resources and delivering environmentally conscious products surpassing customer expectations.

UNIQLO Singapore has aimed to reduce 85% of plastic use by the end of 2020 through phasing out plastic shopping bags and charging its paper shopping bags at $0.10 since March 2020 as part of their efforts in considering the environment.

Old clothes, new life

Going beyond its current sustainability initiatives, UNIQLO has partnered with DesignSingapore Council to launch the Mottainai:Old Clothes, New Life design challenge, with a theme centred on zero waste.

Under the said challenge, practising designers would have to create a wearable garment made from pre-loved UNIQLO products, with Lifewear at the core of inspiration. Participants are encouraged to add their own signature through the available materials using various methods, techniques and additional materials.

The winning pieces will win a showcase in one of the UNIQLO stores from April to June 2021, be featured on UNIQLO’s social media pages, and win a cash prize of $500 and UNIQLO gift card worth $500.

Interested designers can register for the challenge until the end of January, with the submission of designs due on 7 March.

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