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Ralph Lauren launches a new cashmere recycling program. Will it be used by consumers?

“To meet C2C gold level standards for the new cashmere sweater, there was a requirement in place that meant a program had to be in place that would enable the recycling of that product,” said Devon Leahy, the corporate head of sustainability at Ralph Lauren.

Fashion supply chains are complex and opaque. C2C certification means that Ralph Lauren and its partners can account for every step in its production cycle, from farm to finished product. Only small brands have been able to claim C2C certification. Alabama Chanin Or Mother of Pearl) or very expensive (like BamfordOr Loro PianaThe cashmere sweaters sold by Cashmere are closer to $3000, but they have publicly stated that they are up to such a task. Ralph Lauren, one among the most recognized names in fashion worldwide, made $6.2 billion in annual revenues last year.

Re-Verso has been recycling “pre-consumer” cashmere, or waste material collected from garment factories, for almost a decade, but this program will be the first to be directly sourced from a brand’s consumers, explained Marco Signorini, the company’s head of marketing. Currently, Re-Verso recycles around 600 tons of cashmere a yearHe hopes this figure will rise.

At a time when more luxury brands are investing directly in — and monopolizing — suppliers, Ralph Lauren will not have exclusivity rights or ownership of any of the regenerated materials that are produced from the cashmere sourced from the program. It will not sell any recycled cashmere items as part of its luxury collection.

It remains to be seen if customers will purchase the program. Ultimately, without their participation, the program can’t work.

Katie Ioanilli, chief global impact and communications officer at Ralph Lauren, said the C2C certification lets consumers know the fabric “will biodegrade in a non-disruptive way. For those who have cashmere, there is a new way to do it responsibly and with minimal hassle. It might not be perfect. But to us, it feels like a start.”

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