American apparel company Levi Strauss & Co is encouraging its customers to buy less as it strives to tackle the climate crisis and issues of overconsumption.
The San Francisco-based multinational, which first set up its denim retailing business in 1853, is asking its customers to wear their clothes longer and to buy less often.
Paul Dillinger, vice-president of global product innovation, said fast fashion and overconsumption had become a huge problem for the fashion industry.
The move to curb fast fashion practices and encourage consumers to "shop more responsibly" comes as the company gears to expand its operations to focus on re-sale.
"Overconsumption, even of products that are marginally better, is still an issue," Dillinger said, speaking exclusively to the Herald.
"This is not about crippling the company's financial prospects in the future, this is about emphasising the importance of a broader, more holistic approach to the apparel market.
"A more responsible way of owning, shopping, caring and disposing of garments is part of the equation for the overall solution."
The apparel industry is the world's second-largest polluter, second only to fossil fuels. Denim is a major contributor to this.
Global clothing consumption doubled between 2005 and 2020, from 74.3 billion items of clothing purchased annually to 130.6 billion, and the amount of clothing purchased each year is expected to rise by 63 per cent - from 62 million tons today to 102 million tons by 2030, according to figures provided by Levi's.
It is estimated that more than half of fast fashion produced is disposed of in under a year, with consumers found to keep clothing items half as long as they did 15 years ago.
Dillinger said Levi's believed it was "fundamentally immoral" to continue to encourage people to over consume, and that there was "no downside to asking people to shop mindfully" as part of its Buy Better, Wear Longer marketing campaign.
Levi's has stores in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin and is also moving to offer repair services to extend the lifespan of its jeans. It first began looking at its environmental impacts and sustainable garment production in 2014, and has recently launched online marketplace Levi's SecondHand and Levi's Authorised Vintage to repurpose its apparel.
Levi's wants to see more consumers shopping to keep clothes out of landfill, Dillinger said.
The company has set itself some lofty targets, including to use 100 per cent sustainably sourced cotton by 2025, 100 per cent renewable energy in its facilities by 2025 and is striving for a 40 per cent reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions throughout its supply chain and 50 per cent reduction of water use in manufacturing by 2030.
Dillinger said Levi's initiatives to try to "bend the curve on consumption" would take time, but it hoped it would inspire others in the fashion industry to follow suit.
"We know the current rate of consumption and the market model of the consumer basically grazing for new stuff every weekend isn't working. We have to work on the problem together with the consumer."
Fast fashion has seen some local setbacks recently with the closure of Topshop in New Zealand, but purchasing habits in New Zealand do not appear to be slowing down, especially in the wake of post-Covid economic recovery.
According to Stats NZ, apparel transactions increased by $15 million in November last year, and that's only accounting for debit, credit and charge card transactions with New Zealand-based merchants, and not transactions with large international retailers and fast fashion players such as Boohoo, Princess Polly and Fashion Nova.
Overconsumption was a global ballooning issue and not enough was being done to tackle the dire impacts on the environment, Dillinger told the Herald.
"Think of a bud of a cotton plant; it's a flower - you're buying a plant; treat it like a house plant. We keep treating fashion like we're buying a bouquet of cut flowers, not a house plant, something disposable, something pretty with the intention that it goes away, but clothes should be an investment - they came from a beautiful place in nature and should be cared for meaningfully.
"We need people to stop shopping for flashy bouquets and go for a good, sturdy house plant."
Dillinger said global consumption had already been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and there was no reason why this could not be taken a step further.
"My hope coming out of the pandemic is that we're going to embrace the importance of a modulated consumption and industrial activity model ... and the role that overproduction and consumption of fashion has caused.
"The most radical thing you can do is not shop right now and maybe repair and upcycle and embellish the clothes that you already have."