How did you get the idea of producing a pullover made from recycled polyester?
Our pullovers are made from noble materials and synthetic materials. We want to offer clothing that has a reduced environmental impact. Materials being the crux of a product, we turned to our suppliers and spinners for their expertise so as to offer us environment-friendly materials. We focused on recycled polyester from PET bottles (polyethylene terephthalate). Today, pullovers containing recycled polyester make up 12% of Camaïeu’s pullovers, while these account for a significant portion of our collection.
Why is it of interest to integrate recycled polyester in pullovers?
Over the last few years spinners have been proven to be very innovative in regards to this material. We mix it with other fibres such as wool, alpaca wool, elastane etc. before knitting it. Recycled polyester thread has the same molecular composition and the same technical properties as virgin raw polyester thread; it looks and feels the same, there’s no difference, but there is an enormous difference in price. For customers, the results are therefore exactly the same.
Can you explain to us the value chain for these pullovers?
Plastic bottle collection, recycling, spinning recycled polyester (PET) and knitting are based in China. To ensure that the spinner does actually use recycled bottles to make its thread and that the knitter actually uses this thread to make our pullovers, we have turned to a certification label. This whole production line is GRS (Global Recycle Standard) and RCS (Recycled Claim Standard) certified. The production factory is also certified because the thread is knitted on dedicated machines. We provide all this technical information to our customers on our website.
What is the environmental impact of this pullover?
We are currently trying to calculating this very precisely. The result will be displayed on our website in November 2021. At each stage of the life cycle of all our timeless items, i.e., from material production to the final sorting centre, we will know where our most significant impacts lie. Thanks to these indicators, we will be able to change our practices and improve them.
VAre your pullovers designed differently in order to last longer?
We have imposed the same quality requirements on our eco-designed solutions as on the rest of our materials. Our recycled polyester pullover is therefore identical to a standard product in terms of its manufacture, its processing and its quality criteria. These are the same items, but manufactured with a resource that already exists.
What are the technical limits of recycled polyester?
Unlike recycled cotton which can have a more rustic look, and may have comber noils, the polyester obtained using plastic bottles is identical to virgin raw polyester thread. So far, we haven’t encountered any blocking points; we have succeeded in having the production we wanted. Including in terms of style.
How do you plan on recycling these products?
We feel responsible for the end-of-service life of all our products, including our recycled polyester pullovers. None of our unsold items, so still in new condition, are destroyed. We give them to associations (or sell them to professional wholesalers). As from this autumn, in the Eternity Project, the backbone of our CSR policy, we will buyback all Camaïeu-labelled items that have been worn and are in good condition from our customers. We will offer them for sale in “second-hand” corners that will open in 13 of our stores. As for our defective items, left over materials, PLV , etc. they are given to associations or social solidarity workshops for up-cycling, and we are looking at future collection and recycling solutions for used products.
How is the product viewed by customers?
We started this project two years ago, but we have only really launched the recycled polyester pullover in the 2021 winter collection. 300,000 pullovers are concerned. For the moment, we haven’t been disappointed but sales haven’t exploded either. Where the material is sourced doesn’t really matter to customers. We noticed this with our organic cotton T-shirts for example. If an item is successful in terms of style and quality-price ratio, it sells well regardless of whether or not it is eco-designed.
What’s your next step?
We are going to encourage our value chain to become certified so as to ensure a good level of traceability. And then we are going to continue to look for alternative materials and sustainable solutions.
Thank you Émilie BERGER, Environmental Impact Manager and Anaïs PLANCKART, , Pullover buyer for Camaïeu.