In a recent story, The Guardian asks if the fashion trend “upcycling” could boost the Haitian economy. (Upcycling=updating previously worn clothes so they can be recycled.)
We know the idea that a fashion trend could save a third-world-country’s economy sounds like your cousin who thinks her stripteases eliminate the awkward family event vibe, but there might be something to it.
Writer and sustainable fashion consultant, Amy DuFault, examined upcycling in Haiti, where apparel is the country’s strongest money-maker, traditionally speaking. DuFault found one company that’s putting an effort in.
Local Buttons, a clothing company out of Canada that has a factory in Haiti, buys its materials from the secondhand markets in Port-au-Prince. The company pays Haitian tailors a fair price for the work, according to the story.
DeFault reports that since the “Kennedy” foreign aid program under President John F. Kennedy, Haiti has received clothes for their local market. What’s important to know is that Haiti doesn’t actually manufacture textiles, but by reusing secondhand clothes, it’s a cheap way to get fabric locally and sell it legally.
The amount of clothes our country wastes is as staggering as you might expect. Approximately 93% of textile waste gets successfully recycled, but 85% goes straight to landfills. A portion of our discarded clothing waste does reach Haiti’s pépé” (secondhand markets.)
Tasha Lewis, assistant professor at Cornell’s fiber science and apparel design department, said that Haitians recycle more out of necessity than Americans do.
I think they recycle more because they must extend the life of products due to lack of supply of new products,” she said. “There is just very little waste in poorer countries for things that still have some value.”