Orange is so last season. It turns out that durable is the new black. Trends are, by definition, fleeting—they stick around for a year or so before we all move on to the next fad. And that’s especially true when it comes to clothes (fast fashion retailers like Forever 21 have made a mint on clothes that unravel as quickly as the trend does.) So there’s a fun sort of irony in the newest fashion trend: clothes that are designed to last forever.
The last few years has seen a resurgence of clothes and accessories that resist the impulse of fast fashion. Garments that are sustainable because they won’t go into a landfill anytime soon: they are easily repaired, made out of quality materials, and designed to never go out of style. That’s a concept we can get behind.
Here are a few companies that are designing stuff for the long haul:
Patagonia is the original granddaddy of sustainable clothes (they went organic in 1996, way before it was cool)—and they’re also one of our favorite companies ever. For Patagonia, sustainable doesn’t just mean crafting clothes out of eco-friendly materials. It means designing clothes to last for as long as possible. Instead of encouraging their patrons to buy new stuff, they tell patrons to keep and repair their old stuff. And Patagonia will fix any garment you send back to them, no matter how tattered. They also are dedicated to teaching their customers to fix stuff themselves (We partnered with Patagonia to make repair and care guides for their clothes). This year, the company even sent a bus across the country to help people fix old Patagonia gear.
Patagonia also celebrates the relationship that people build with their well-worn clothes on the blog Worn Wear. Because if you have a sweater for 10 years, it becomes part of the fabric of your life—or what Patagonia likes to call the “stories we wear.”
“One of the most responsible things we can do as a company is to make high-quality stuff that lasts for years and can be repaired, so you don’t have to buy more of it,” says Patagonia.
Everyone needs a reliable hoodie. But the more-than-casual hoodie wearer will tell you, hoodie’s get real ratty, real quick: the zippers break, the cuffs shred, and the fabric goes threadbare. A little company called Flint and Tinder set out to change all that by building a better hoodie—"designed for life, guaranteed for a decade," as they say.
When the project launched on Kickstarter, it broke records. 9,226 people pledged over $1 million to take the buy-it-for-life hoodie from prototype to production—making it the most successful fashion product ever on Kickstarter.
Of course, when you guarantee your product will last for 10 years, you’ve gotta plan for the future. Flint and Tinder made sure that the hoodie’s classic design could weather another 10 years of fashion trends. And in the event that the garment pops a seam somewhere, the company promises to repair the hoodie for free.
In a recent interview with Fast Company, the company’s founder Jake Bronstein said that the company offers two kinds of repairs: conspicuous or inconspicuous. Inconspicuous repairs are pretty much invisible. But the conspicuous ones are meant to be seen and worn like a badge of honor.
"About half go for the more interesting look," Bronstein told Fast Company.
Another Kickstarter alum, Rhino Laces bills itself as the only unbreakable boot laces on the planet. They were developed by a pair of firefighters who regularly weathered blistering conditions and rough terrain while on duty. Their laces couldn’t hack the heat. And they broke. Which sucks.
So, the pair of firefighters decided to come up with an unbreakable, uncuttable, and unburnable alternative to the standard bootlace. After a successful crowdfunding campaign, Rhino Laces went into production for $20 a pair.
Of course, when you call something unbreakable, people feel compelled to test that claim. And people did—with amusing results. Even the Science Channel got in on the fun. Result: Rhino Laces did break. But only after someone took a hedge trimmer to them—probably not the kind of thing your laces will ever encounter in the wild. Under ordinary (and most extraordinary) conditions, you’ll probably break before these laces do. Which is why the unbreakable laces are popular with EMTs, firefighters, and people in the military.
Another closet staple that’ll last longer than your next car: the 30-Year-Sweatshirt. Created by menswear designer Tom Cridland, the 30-Year-Sweatshirt features a classic design, durable stitching, tough fabrics, and is handmade by artisans in Portugal. Which is probably why this sweatshirt costs $85. Another reason why it’s more expensive than your Walmart sweatshirt: it comes backed by a 30-year repair guarantee. If it rips, tears, wears, or comes apart at any time in the next three decades, you can send it back to the company for a free repair.
“A lot of big fashion brands make their clothing knowing that it will fall apart, so that their customers will have to return to buy more. It’s called built-in obsolescence, and it creates a cycle of consumption and waste that’s become all too common these days,” says founder Tom Cridland. “This has to change. Our natural resources deserve a higher level of respect and so do you. We’re going to prove that clothing can, and should, last a lifetime.”
When our things are built to last, they're usually built with repair in mind. Sourcing and manufacturing clothing is pretty hard on the environment—textile dying accounts for as much as 20% of industrial water pollution. Buying durable products and making your clothes last longer is an easy way to ‘go green’. So, repair your clothes when they break down. Even if you’ve never picked up a needle, it’s pretty easy to learn. Brush up on your sewing and clothing repair skills with our easy step-by-step sewing guides.
Know of more durable brands? Tell us about them in the comments.