TOKYO—Uniqlo is stepping up its sustainability efforts with a new initiative called Re.Uniqlo, which collects used but unneeded Uniqlo clothes from customers and turns them into something new. The first product under the program, a jacket made from 100 percent recycled down, will go on sale at 67 Uniqlo stores in Japan, 22 overseas stores, and online starting from Nov. 2.
Uniqlo has been collecting used items at its stores since 2006. The majority of the products donated are cleaned, sorted and then sent to refugees and others in need around the world. But since last year Uniqlo has had separate bins for recycling its popular down jackets. Between September 2019 and March of this year, the brand recycled some 620,000 down jackets in Japan alone. Using technology developed by textile corporation Toray, the down and feathers in the jackets are automatically separated, before being rejuvenated and used in the new products.
The first Uniqlo product to use recycled down and feather exclusively is a V-neck, unisex jacket that will be available in four colors and priced at 7,990 yen. The collarless design was chosen to give it versatility, as it can be worn on its own or layered under another jacket or coat on colder days.
“The Uniqlo U recycled down jacket represents Uniqlo and my own continued dedication to sustainability,” Christophe Lemaire, artistic director of the Uniqlo Paris research and development center, said in a release. “It’s versatile, timeless, and made for all. It’s an everyday essential that’s designed to last.”
At a press conference Thursday, Masahiro Endo, Fast Retailing’s social communications director, said that the company plans to continue increasing its sustainability efforts, which he said were accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to recycled down, Uniqlo also makes quick-dry polo shirts from recycled plastic soda bottles, and employs a method of denim washing that uses far less water than traditional means. Endo said that this fall will also see the introduction of a new sustainable fleece initiative, and that other projects will follow.
Uniqlo’s global product development director Gentaro Saito said the brand is committed to increasing the percentage share of recycled styles offered in its stores.