When the 10-Year Hoodie became the first fashion project to ever raise over $1 million on Kickstarter in 2013, it was a sign that people might be starting to lose interest in cheap clothes that quickly fall apart and end up in the trash. Now businesses are competing for how long they can guarantee a garment: The 30 Year Sweatshirt project offers guaranteed repairs for the next three decades.
“You will be able to wear it for your lifetime and even pass it down a generation,” says Tom Cridland, the 24-year-old founder of the eponymous mensware brand making the sweatshirt. “A combination of old school craftsmanship, the best fabrics in the world, and technology make it extra durable.”
The London-based startup is working with Portuguese craftsmen to knit the sweatshirts by hand, using thick, high-quality cotton treated with silicon so it won’t shrink or pill. Polyester finishing helps avoid rips and tears. It’s designed to last longer than almost anything you own, and if it needs a repair, the company will take care of it.
The shirt is designed as an antidote to fast fashion. “The problem is built-in obsolescence among major fashion retailers,” Cridland says. “It’s ok if you’ve got lots of money and can afford to often get bored of what you buy. It’s not right, however, that clothes are being made systematically to wear out after only a few washes.”
It’s also an alternative for people who want to support fair labor standards. “Often the people making clothing for fast fashion retailers in places like China, India or Bangladesh are not treated like human beings,” he says. “Their working conditions are horrendous and their pay barely covers basic living expenses. This clearly needs to change.”
More companies are going in the direction of “slow” fashion. Like Tom Cridland, other newer brands including American Giant, Flint and Tinder (the company behind the 10-Year Hoodie), and Zady are among them. And longstanding brands like Patagonia have offered free repairs for years and try to encourage consumers to buy less.
But they’re still only a tiny slice of the overall market. The three biggest fast fashion brands alone–Forever 21, H&M, and Zara–with current sales around $6 billion, are projected to grow 11% annually over the next five years, far faster than the rest of the apparel industry. Forever 21 is opening new stores called F21 Red that are even cheaper than its flagship shops, where camisoles retail for $1.80 and jeans for $7.80.
Clearly, fast fashion isn’t going away. But at least there’s now more choices for people who want ethical, relatively affordable clothes that are built to last.