Creativity Under Constraint with SXD (Preview)

A Zero Waste Design-Tech Startup

Children reading in a colorful space

Image courtesy of Shelly Xu

By Shelly Xu, Founder of SXD 

Our clothing, our second skin, is one of the biggest polluters on our planet. 

The global apparel industry produces about 92 million tons of textile waste a year. (1) That is about one garbage truck’s worth of fabric waste getting landfilled or burned every second, according to a 2017 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (2) I have seen my own childhood playground in Asia turn into a textile dumpster. The apparel industry is also notorious for unethical labor practices, and in Bangladesh, one of the top clothing manufacturers on earth, climate change is estimated to displace one in every seven people by 2050, many of them seamstresses. (3)

From organic cotton to recycling, increasingly more brands are seeking sustainable and ethical solutions. However, today’s sustainable fashion is an unpopular compromise. Sustainable clothing often costs more but doesn’t look better. Which is why only an insignificant fraction of people are actually buying sustainable fashion for their closets. When our team at Shelly Xu Design (SXD) began exploring this problem, we surveyed over 2000 people, and we learned that today’s sustainable fashion too often felt like a costly replica of existing basics—an uninspiring guilt trip that doesn’t feel worth it. 

No matter how sustainable a piece of clothing is, if it’s not bought, worn, and loved by the wearer, it’s simply more waste. 

To drive scaled adoption in sustainable fashion is to shift human behaviors. Just like how Tesla attracts even the non-environmentalists with their well designed cars, design will be a powerful tool for building desire and shifting behaviors in the apparel industry…


Cover of the Education Issue

From Design Museum Magazine Issue 020