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We’ve been working hard on Plan A for nearly eight years now. We’ve addressed many social and environmental issues associated with clothing including cotton and wood sourcing, ethical and eco model factories and the use of dyes and finishes.

But we’ve also been working on a challenge that isn’t instantly associated with eco issues – how do you make clothing last even longer? Research from WRAP shows that for every 3 months you can extend the life of clothing you reduce its waste, carbon and water footprint by 5-10%.

We’re addressing one of the most obvious ways of extending the life of clothing through our Shwopping collaboration with Oxfam. Since 2008 we’ve encouraged M&S customers to donate over 20 million garments to Oxfam which in turn has helped them raise over £15 million to save lives in some of the poorest parts of the world.

We've told the Shwopping story on a previous blog.  We’re clear that there is still much to do on clothing recovery. So we are working on a two year project with the University of Cambridge, Institute for Sustainable Manufacturing on a project funded in conjunction with Innovate UK to investigate opportunities to increase the volume and value of textile recovery.

But there’s another key part to our story.

Throughout its 130 year history M&S has focused on offering quality garments, clothing that lasts, that won’t be consigned to the bin after just one wear. And now we’re using a new innovation to make our clothing last even longer. Stay New was launched in Spring 2012 and has been so successful it is now our biggest innovation platform.

Stay New encompasses a suite of different technologies that help extend the lifetime of our products making them look “newer for longer”. For example our core microfleece leisurewear has an anti-pill finish to reduce“bobbling”; our swimwear is made with chlorine resistant elastane; our viscose yarns in womenswear are spun with a special technology that reduces “bobbling”; we have ladder-resistant hosiery, denim that does not fade, and many more. 

One of the principle technologies behind Stay New products has been a process that treats knitted cotton fabric with an enzyme. The enzyme removes the surface fibres on the fabric resulting in a very smooth clean fabric and this simple process delivers the fantastic benefits of reduced pilling/bobbling and greater colour retention after repeated washing. This has helped to enhance many of our core product lines – especially those high frequency “wash and wear” lines such as underwear, nightwear, T shirts etc.

In the last 12 months we’ve sold 15 million products with Stay New benefits extending the life of clothing. We’re very clear that quality and sustainability are two sides of the same coin. The innovation capacity of the business has delivered a benefit for our customers and the environment in away that delivers scale and which makes sustainability accessible to our core customer. Above all action to extend product life is at the heart of sustainable business.