Apparel and footwear production contribute to around 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The fashion industry also produces 20 percent of global wastewater, and 85 percent of textiles end up in landfills.
To address this problem, Japan’s 2020 Olympic and Paralympic teams will wear official sportswear made from donated, recycled textiles.
The new line of sportswear developed by ASICS – a member of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action — aims to lead the way in terms of sustainable sportswear and to bring people together.
“Our goal was not only to produce high-quality products but also to create an opportunity to bring people around the country and the Japan Olympic and Paralympic Team together,” said Kensuke Masuda, who led the development of the new product for ASICS, the only Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Gold Partner for Sporting Goods.
Across the country, people were encouraged to donate their used sportswear, to have it turned into official Olympic and Paralympic wear.
Producing new sportswear from used clothes is still challenging, given the different types of textiles, fibers, colors and threads used.
“I was on the phone with our recycling partners almost every day to discuss the quality of the product, the production schedule, and made samples again and again,” said Mr. Masuda. “Step by step, I was able to gain confidence from the teams involved in this project that we can actually make reliable and functional sportswear from old clothes.”
After two years of preparation, the project was launched in January 2019. Around 250 collection boxes were installed at stores, Tokyo 2020 Games partner offices, universities, and athletic training centres.
In just four months, about four tons of clothes were collected. From young to old and from sports beginners to professional athletes, a large number of people brought their used shirts, pants, jackets and many other clothes.
Athletes also joined the project. Saori Yoshida, triple Olympic gold medalist, contributed the T-shirt she was wearing when training for the 2016 Rio Games. “I remember being excited when I wore the official Olympic sportswear, making me realize that the Games are happening very soon. I am sure Japan’s 2020 Olympic and Paralympic teams are also getting ready to perform their best and share their passion for sports.”
Fashion companies have been teaming up to reduce their environmental impact. The Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, launched at the UN Climate Change Conference in 2018, now has around 100 signatories and supporting organizations working towards the vision of net zero emissions by 2050.
A circular economy – characterized by no waste and the continual use of resources – is what Mr. Masuda aims to advance with this project.
“We want to leverage big stages like the Tokyo 2020 Games to stress the importance of sustainability to the people around the world. By making sustainable products, I want to contribute to fostering a circular society. We want to make this endeavor a legacy of the Tokyo 2020 Games.”