by John Russel Jones

The most sustainable clothes are the ones you already have, but on average clothes are worn only ten times and thrown away long before they need to be [1]. That is why Swedish home appliance brand Electrolux wants to inspire consumers to break the pattern and take better care of their clothes. To demonstrate that used clothes still have value, Electrolux collaborated with Swedish fashion designer duo, Rave Review, to create a unique collection made from discarded clothing from the world’s second-largest garment graveyard – The Atacama Desert.

Globally, approximately 73% of all textile waste ends up in landfill or is incinerated [2]. The Atacama Desert in Chile, home of the second biggest garment graveyard worldwide – has lately turned into a symbol of the acceleration of fast fashion and the rise of textile waste. According to the UNECE [3], 21 billion tons of clothes end up in landfill every year. In the Atacama Desert alone, approximately 39,000 tonnes of clothes are discarded every year.

“Besides the challenges with fast fashion, it’s clear that we need to change the way we use and take care of our clothes. We know from research that extending the life of our clothes by just nine months can reduce the carbon impact, the water impact, and the waste produced by 20-30 percent. There are different ways to do this: repair or upcycle old clothes, and air, steam, or wash clothes in a way that is more sustainable,” said Vanessa Butani, VP Group Sustainability at Electrolux.

That is why Electrolux has teamed up with designer duo Rave Review, known for their colorful, upcycled and high-end collections, with a mission: Giving new life to discarded clothes retrieved from the Atacama garment graveyard. The result is the world’s first Atacama upcycled fashion collection. The ambition is to put the spotlight on the growing problem of fashion waste and showcase an inspiring example that can spark a change in consumer behavior.

“We have always believed that in the future fashion cannot exist as it does today. I think we all must change in one way or another. When it comes to fashion, taking care of what we already have is probably the most tangible and easy way to do it,” said Livia Schück, co-Founder and Creative Director at Rave Review.

Goal: Make clothes last twice as long with half the environmental impact by 2030
By modernizing care technology for all fabrics and inspiring better care habits, our aim is to halve the environmental impact of caring for clothes and prolong the average life of garments.

“Electrolux has a long-term strategy in place with the goal of reducing our climate impact significantly. As experts in clothing care, we are already developing advanced laundry technologies that make the clothes we wear last longer – and reduce both the water and energy used. But we as a company cannot provide the only solution: we hope we can inspire and educate consumers on how they can make the clothes they already have last longer, we want to do all we can to help drive this change,” said Elisa Stabon, Care Experience Development Director at Electrolux.

Research shows that there is an urgent need to help people understand how best to care for their clothes and encourage as many people as possible to adopt more sustainable laundry practices: to wash less, steam more, wash full loads and at lower temperatures.

“If everyone made a small change, to break their pattern, each and every one of us could reduce our environmental impact from textiles. By lowering wash temperatures and switching to liquid detergent from powder could mean saving the equivalent of 50 kg of CO2 per appliance per year. It could create a huge impact when scaled up to millions of consumers following the same example,” Vanessa Butani ends.