Give fashion packaging the boot this season

How would you like it if you went to a restaurant, ordered a flame-grilled steak, and it came smothered in fatty gravy, slopped onto the plate with a dubious skin on top, like a 70s school dinner? And when you queried whether this really was the dish you ordered, the waiter replied, “It IS a flame-grilled steak, we just serve it like this.”

Didn’t think so.

Then that begs the question; why do we stand for sloppy presentation when buying clothes online? You see, internet shopping, in many cases, is just the same as being given a mushy steak. We order something beautiful but it plops onto our doorsteps looking ugly: Folded round bits of crinkled tissue paper, suffocated by plastic wrap and a dusty, grey postage bag (or worse – an over-taped box, stuffed full of bubble wrap).

Two issues are brought to light with this. Firstly, as all you Good Wardrobers know, clothes are an investment. They will be part of a shopper’s life for some time. So surely their presentation should reflect the fact that they will be loved and cherished.

Simple, stylish and thoughtful 'packaging' from online retailer Think Boutique

Secondly, and more urgently, packaging should be sourced carefully so as not pollute in the way it currently does. In 2010 the UK disposed of an estimated 10.8 million tonnes of packaging waste and 33% of that went to landfill.* Of course the products we buy need to be protected but this should never be to the detriment of our environment. After all, what’s more important, a snazzy new jumper or this incredible blue-green space-marble our children will inherit?

Unfortunately, the waste doesn’t stop with online shopping. A while back I bought some pants from La Senza. At the checkout, my knickers were wrapped in four layers of tissue fastened with three stickers, put into a paper bag, sprinkled with half a ton of over-perfumed plastic hearts, and the bag fastened with another sticker. For three pairs of keks. 20 minutes later I was at home and all but the pants and bag were rendered useless.

There is nothing wrong with using a single piece of pretty, unbranded ribbon to keep something folded. In fact, there is a lot right - the ribbon can be used again and again, and it looks a lot more lovely than a taped-up bag. There is also a lot right with closing the loop and wrapping clothes in recycled paper.

No fuss recycled cardboard packaging from online retailer Think Boutique

Thankfully there are a few fashion packaging heroes out there. Glasgow-based Think Boutique spent a long time researching its wrappings to achieve a balance between a lovely customer experience and responsible sourcing of packaging materials. Founder Victoria McQuillan promises, “We use recycled tissue, ribbon and cardboard to present our items in a beautiful way, then a recycled plastic mail bag to make sure orders reach customers in pristine condition. We source all our packaging from suppliers who make it here in the UK. We reuse packaging as much as possible if we receive returns unless it isn't presentable – then we recycle it here or reuse it for storage.”

It’s also good to know that some large companies are looking in depth at their packaging too. Puma realised that, although its shoe boxes were recyclable, “Our lives are filled with them”. It took this idea with its trainers in mind and ran with it. By niftily fashioning its Clever Little Bag shoe boxes out of reusable bags, the sportswear brand expects to save 20m megajoules of electricity, 1 million litres of water and 500,000 litres of diesel per year, and use a whopping 65% less paper.

The Clever Process by Puma shows the lifecycle of their Clever Little Bag shoe boxes

They are not alone. ASOS are working on their wrappings in a more traditional way. Christian James Smith, CR Manager says, “All our packaging is 100% recyclable. Our boxes are 100% recycled … while our bags contain up to 25% recycled materials. The supply of recycled material is not great at the moment, but is something we are working to resolve. We recently cut down the sizes of our bags and removed handles, which has reduced the amount of plastic we use overall.”

Less is most definitely more when it comes to packaging – and that is something that clearly involves thought. Next time you order a snazzy new jumper, if it isn’t wrapped like the investment it is, kick up a fuss. Do like you would with your steak and tell the company it’s not good enough. Demand that your clothes be beautifully and sustainably presented. After all, why have Brisket when you can have Rump?


WANT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT PACKAGING?

If, like me, all this pointless, polluting, plastic pffsh gets your goat, then you can join the battle of the bin over at EggMag. Its recently launched Packaging Protest aims to name and shame rubbish councils and landfill-loving brands. If we work together, we the people have the power to force companies to change their wasteful ways. Join in, find out more and become an EggMag Packaging Protestor here: www.eggmag.co.uk/the-eggmag-packaging-protest and on Facebook

*Defra 

About the author
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Ellie Good is the Founding Editor of EggMag, the online magazine that joins culture with a conscience. She is a big fan of second-hand bags, Scandinavian textile design and wearing the odd moustache.

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