Designer Roland Mouret tackles fashion’s sustainability problem with a new and innovative solution

“Clothes hangers are the plastic straws of the fashion industry”, says designer Roland Mouret as we chat over breakfast during London Fashion Week. “You don’t think about a hanger, you don’t even see them because you are focused on the clothes. But they are fashion’s dirty secret. They get up in cardboard boxes in storerooms or under tills and then are thrown away. No one cares and they all end up in Landfills – it’s a disaster.”

But this is not just another conversation about how polluting and wasteful the fashion industry is. Mouret is here to discuss a solution to this problem, and it is – you guessed it – an eco clothes hanger.

Developed during the past two years and created in partnership with Netherlands-based Arch & Hook, the world’s only sustainable hanger brand, Mouret’s clothes hanger, named “Blue”, is manufactured out of 80 percent recycled marine plastic and features aluminum hooks. Creating a recyclable hanger might seem like rather insignificant move, but it could prove to be incredibly impactful.

Studies by Arch & Hook discovered that the most polluting stage in the apparel lifecycle is when garments made in factories in India and China are then shipped across the world to their destinations on hangers. When the garments arrive, these hangers are disposed of immediately. Arch & Hook estimate that 100bn hangers are used annually for this stage alone. The majority of these are used once and 85 percent will end up in landfills, taking more than 1,000 years to degrade.

Designer Roland Mouret at London Fashion Week with his eco hangers

Mouret’s hanger has a circular lifespan, meaning it can be continually recycled after use, and the plastic is a slate grey color – a signifier that it has not been tampered with by chemicals during the production process. “If recycled marine plastic is not this color it cannot be recycled again,” explains Mouret as he holds one up to the light. It was imperative for Mouret to get the design right. “I worked closely with Arch & Hook, because we needed it to be light, adaptable as well as educational. That’s why we have the sea plastic logo printed at the top,” he says, pointing to the blue wave symbol. ” We wanted anyone to look at it and know this had been made from marine plastic.”

The recycled plastic used to create Mouret’s new hangers are collected from the seas in China. Why? “Because we send all our recycling to China,” explains Mouret, “and all of the plastic that goes into the rivers ends up in their sea which then goes around the rest of the world. We are cleaning from the source of the problem.”

Designer Roland Mouret's eco-hangers

Mouret is already using his eco-hangers for his own stores, However, he has not been met with an enthusiastic response from many of his industry peers, despite positive fashion and sustainability being this year’s London Fashion Week theme. “I offered 300 free hangers each to most designers on the schedule; only roughly 20 percent of designers accepted them,” he says.

“I offered 300 free hangers to most designers; only roughly 20 percent of designers accepted them”

What are his thoughts on the lack of response? “There is still pushback in the industry and especially with luxury designers,” says Mouret. “Many luxury houses still do not see the urgency of making this change. It is small and simple but would have much impact on our waste. This is a crisis and we all need to take action.”

But why do this project now, after such a long time within the industry? “My generation of designers are the ones who sped up climate change,” he says, “from designing two collections a year to six. But that’s when I realised I needed to change. How could I continue to be creative but also be a destroyer? I genuinely believe that this product could be the penicillin of the fashion industry.”

 

Words, Flora Macdonald Johnston from Financial Times 

Photography, Financial Times & Getty Images