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Textile Recycling

Published date
24 Jul 2018
Image courtesy of UAL

A research project into textile recycling at UAL has informed the development of a set of strategies for sustainable design, supporting designers and the fashion industry to make better informed decisions at the design stage of a product.

Worn Again: Rethinking Recycled Textiles (2005-2009)

This project proposed environmental improvement through the creation of innovative, high quality, upcycled artefacts. It explored textile recycling in combination with new technologies, by challenging twelve designers to create recycled textile products that would have value added to them in the course of recirculation. It ultimately led to the creation of TED’s TEN by principal investigator Professor Rebecca Earley, Kay Politowicz and other members of the Textile-Environment-Design (TED) project, based at UAL’s Textile Futures Research Centre.


The TEN are a set of strategies created in order to help designers navigate the complexity of sustainability issues and assist designers in understanding how to lower the environmental and economic costs in this final design stage.

‘It is estimated that ‘80-90% of a product’s environmental and economic costs are committed by the final design stage before production begins’ (Graedel et al, 1995:17).

The TEN has been used to encourage new thinking in organisations such as the VF Corporation (who own North Face, Wrangler and other leading brands) and H&M, Sweden; and Earley has now applied them when working directly with over 173 designers, from 28 Swedish and Danish brands including Kappahl, Lindex, Filippa K, Haglöfs, Åhlens, H&M,Houdini, and By Marlene Birger.

'When empowering key people in fashion companies [...] with TED's tools, companies realise that working with sustainability can lead to tangible, commercially viable results, quite quickly.’ (Mike Schragger, SFA, Stockholm).

MISTRA Future Fashion

As part the MISTRA Future Fashion research project, Earley and the TED team have devised and delivered training for H&M based on The TEN, which led to the creation of redesign concepts for H&M’s Conscious Collection garments. The H&M program also included a series of lectures by Earley to their Stockholm-based buying office staff.

‘TED's ideas offered a really informative, inspiring and accessible way for our designers to grasp the broad landscape of sustainable design. In a short space of time we found creative ways to make product and service innovations.’ (Johan Ward, Head of Sustainability, H&M).

Impact and reach

During 2011 and 2012, VF Summit (USA) commissioned Earley and Politowicz, to demonstrate approaches to sustainable textile design products, based on The TEN, delivering a sustainability workshop to the top 20 leaders of VF. Work with the Nordic Fashion Association’s Nordic Initiative Clean and Ethical (NICE) has resulted in The TEN becoming part of the NICE educational programme and being included in NICE Code of Conduct and Manual for the Fashion and Textile Industry(2012).

Further afield Redress Asia (a non-governmental organisation based in Hong Kong with a mission to promote sustainability in the fashion industry) also uses The Ten to guide its activities.

Related links

Worn Again: Rethinking Recycled Textiles (2005-2009)


MISTRA Future Fashion