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Full Circle Fashion: The Big Favorite Recycles Undergarments

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Every day, more than 11 million pounds of unwanted undergarments end up in landfills across the U.S. Philadelphia-based The Big Favorite wants to change that. The clothing company is embracing circular fashion to help reduce environmental microplastics. 

By encouraging customers to return old undergarments such as shirts, boxers, panties, and bras rather than throwing them away, Big Favorite will also help make a dent in the $500 billion lost each year as a result of clothes being barely worn and rarely recycled. Essentially, the company runs on a circular system designed to help consumers turn potential waste into new garments.

The Big Favorite recycles old undergarments by turning them into yarn, woven into 100% Pima cotton for new clothing of all types. The 100% cotton is a plus for consumers who have trouble finding fully cotton products, allowing for easier continued recycling. 

Customers are encouraged to sign up for the company’s circular saving program, which offers credits that can be converted into a donation for climate-positive initiatives.

The firm asks that all used garments are washed and dried before turning them in, and all donations are anonymous.

Photo Courtesy The Big Favorite  

“Brands will try to approach circularity as an afterthought, but that’s inauthentic,” said Eleanor Turner, Big Favorite founder, in an interview with “Vogue.” “It has to be part of your approach from the very beginning. Our products were specifically designed for their ‘end of life’ — they’re engineered to come apart easily, and we chose Pima cotton because it’s a longer-staple fiber that’s better able to be recycled.” 

“It’s where good design and prioritizing the planet meet,” Turner continues. “That’s where I see the opportunity — by building this brand, we’re also building the experience of taking back garments and changing people’s behavior with it.” 

Photo Courtesy The Big Favorite  

The company currently sells anything from basic T-shirts and ribbed tanks to thongs and briefs, all in basic white, black, or navy. Once you’ve worn the product out, you scan a QR code for an easy return.

Circular fashion is an important trend as the fashion industry works to shrink its massive pollution problem. Microplastics are produced when clothing manufacturers blend polyester and other plastics into natural fibers like cotton.

In fact, more than 35% of all microplastics in the ocean come from synthetic clothes production — and they enter the rest of the ecosystem, affecting everything from water supplies to the global food chain. 

Circular fashion encourages fashion manufacturers to take responsibility for what they create by using every possible green option to create additional clothing. Big Favorite is working on setting a zero-waste standard for simple, American-made pieces of clothing, in turn making them long-lasting, readily accessible, and affordable.

Photo Courtesy The Big Favorite  

“This [circular fashion approach] needs to be done, and the most creative forces in this effort are going to win,” Turner added. “So I’m going to bet on me and on The Big Favorite. Creatives have the ability to think outside the box and solve problems. You have to approach it in a way that isn’t necessarily logical — that’s how we’re going to change the game.”

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