SCHOOL CLOTHES GO­ING GREEN

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Anne D’in­no­cen­zio

For the back-to-school sea­son, many par­ents and their kids are think­ing green.

Con­cerns about the en­vi­ron­ment have them look­ing for sec­ond­hand cloth­ing or fash­ions made from reused ma­te­rial — but price still rules. Shop­pers want qual­ity and style in back­packs, jeans and the like with­out spend­ing a lot more money.

Re­tail­ers such as H&M, Tar­get and J.C. Pen­ney are com­ing out with more clothes that use waste from all sorts of sources, like re­cy­cled denim or leather, ny­lon waste, rem­nants of old gar­ments, or even plas­tic bot­tles.

J.C. Pen­ney is de­liv­er­ing three styles of jeans this fall made from 20 per­cent polyester cre­ated from bot­tles un­der its Ari­zona brand, af­ter see­ing what it be­lieves to be teen cus­tomers search­ing for “re­cy­cled jeans” on its site, the com­pany said. Tar­get started of­fer­ing fash­ions made of polyester cre­ated from re­cy­cled plas­tic bot­tles with last year’s launch of its chil­dren’s brand Cat & Jack af­ter fo­cus groups of par­ents and chil­dren ex­pressed in­ter­est in ecofriendly prod­ucts.

James Rein­hart, CEO and founder of the on­line used cloth­ing mar­ket­place Thredup, says he’s find­ing that many of the site’s shop­pers aren’t mo­ti­vated just by price the way they used to be, but also be­cause of en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns.

“If I was de­cid­ing be­tween two items, I would pick up some­thing more eco-friendly,” said Ellen Abram­son, the mother of an 11-year-old girl and 16year-old twin boys. “But the price has to be com­pa­ra­ble, and it has to be done in a fun, cool way.”

Abram­son, of Sand­wich, Mass., buys eco-friendly clean­ing prod­ucts and re­cy­cles plas­tic bot­tles. Her daugh­ter Emma says she likes to help the en­vi­ron­ment by re­cy­cling, not lit­ter­ing, and bring­ing a ther­mos to school. She says she would be in­ter­ested in re­cy­cled cloth­ing.

“If it looks the same, and it is bet­ter for the en­vi­ron­ment, I would want to buy it,” said Emma, who likes to shop at Macy’s, Jus­tice and Old Navy.

Many re­tail­ers are re­cy­cling. At Nike, 71 per­cent of its footwear and cloth­ing con­tains re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als, and it says more than 31 mil­lion pairs of used shoes and 36,000 tons of rub­ber and foam have been re­born into high-per­for­mance prod­ucts since 2010.

H&M, which is of­fer­ing jeans this fall made from re­cy­cled fab­ric, says more than 26 per­cent of its clothto ing comes from sus­tain­able sources like or­ganic cot­ton or re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als like leather and denim. By 2030, the goal is for all its prod­ucts to be eco-friendly, the com­pany said.

Deb­o­rah Wein­swig, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at re­search firm Fung Global Re­tail & Tech­nol­ogy, says she ex­pects to see more ma­jor names in­tro­duce more sus­tain­able prod­ucts. How­ever, she says the trend must be kept in con­text.

“Back-to-school shop­ping re­mains driven, in large part, by fru­gal­ity,” she says. “So, re­tail­ers must con­tinue to of­fer low prices along­side more sus­tain­able prod­uct.”

But peo­ple’s style and qual­ity ex­pec­ta­tions put pres­sure on re­tail­ers to keep prices the same, even though man­u­fac­tur­ing through the re­cy­cling process can be more ex­pen­sive.

C. Britt Beemer, chair­man of Amer­ica’s Re­search Group, says 38 per­cent of 1,000 mil­len­nial shop­pers polled in April said they would “re­spond pos­i­tively” to en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly prod­ucts. But they would spend, on av­er­age, just 3 per­cent more. An­other sur­vey by Deloitte Ser­vices found that par­ents of school-aged chil­dren would spend no more than 4 per­cent ex­tra on “green” prod­ucts for the back-toschool shop­ping sea­son.

Pen­ney says the re­cy­cled Ari­zona jeans cost from $36 to $42, com­pa­ra­ble to other jeans in that col­lec­tion.

“Value is im­por­tant to the J.C. Pen­ney cus­tomer, es­pe­cially dur­ing the backto-school shop­ping sea­son, so we knew the jeans had be af­ford­able,” said spokes­woman Sarah Hol­land.

In cases when com­pa­nies use rem­nants of old gar­ments, keep­ing prices down is eas­ier.

“Us­ing old gar­ments and tex­tile left­overs, when mak­ing new clothes, means we can both save on raw ma­te­ri­als and stop old clothes from go­ing to waste,” said Pernilla Wohlfahrt, head of de­sign and cre­ative di­rec­tor at H&M.

H&M’S jeans of re­cy­cled fab­rics are priced from $29.99 to $49.99, the same range as its reg­u­lar jeans.

But re­cy­cling plas­tic bot­tles into fiber is more costly. Unifi Inc.’s Repreve busi­ness, which works with 250 com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Tar­get, Roxy and Fos­sil, says the re­cy­cled fiber sells at a 25 per­cent to 30 per­cent pre­mium to non-re­cy­cled fiber.

A pair of men’s dress pants or jeans can use up to six plas­tic bot­tles, says Jay Her­twig, vice pres­i­dent of global brand sales, mar­ket­ing and prod­uct devel­op­ment. The added cost comes from the col­lec­tion, clean­ing and con­vert­ing to flakes and then to re­cy­cled poly­mer chips, Her­twig says.

Mar­ket­ing the green prod­ucts can be tricky.

Tar­get uses tags that say “Re­spon­si­ble Style” and “Bet­ter for All.” It also pro­vides information in­clud­ing how much of the fab­ric con­tent in­cor­po­rates Repreve, which varies from 20 per­cent to 90 per­cent. Dur­ing the back-toschool sea­son, store signs will bet­ter high­light the Cat & Jack prod­ucts that use Repreve. Cat & Jack pieces that in­clude Repreve are sold at the same price as the rest of the col­lec­tion.

“It’s not ter­ri­bly overt,” said Joshua Thomas, a Tar­get spokesman. “We’re not try­ing to pat our­selves on the back. What we try to do is pro­vide aware­ness of what goes into the gar­ment.”

Carry Gear So­lu­tions pro­duces back­packs and lunch bags made of re­cy­cled wa­ter bot­tles for store brands and most re­cently for Lego. Af­ter test­ing some bags and back­packs for Lego last year, it ex­panded the col­lec­tion for fall and did fo­cus groups with chil­dren and adults. The end re­sult: a tag fea­tur­ing an il­lus­tra­tion of eight wa­ter bot­tles that add up to a back­pack.

“We wanted to know, how much do they want to know about the process and how much do they un­der­stand,” said Jen­nifer Car­roll, gen­eral man­ager at Carry Gear for Lego Bags. “There’s a fine line.”

Mark Len­ni­han, The As­so­ci­ated Press

Cat & Jack jeans and tops, made with Repreve polyester fab­ric cre­ated from re­cy­cled plas­tic bot­tles, were on dis­play July 14 at a Tar­get store in New York.

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