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The Brandy Melville Documentary Shines a Surprising Light on the Ingenuity of Sustainable Global Businesses

HBO Max recently premiered “Brandy Hellville & The Cult of Fast Fashion,” a documentary exposing the controversial marketing strategies, leadership, and fast fashion production practices of teenage-focused apparel chain Brandy Melville. Known for its one-size-fits-“most” approach, Brandy Melville skyrocketed to popularity among teen girls in the 2010s and has since maintained its stronghold in the market, with sales exceeding $212 million in 2023 and close to 100 locations worldwide.

The documentary delves into the fast fashion industry, shedding light on its negative impact on communities and the environment worldwide. The film highlights two longstanding recycling and repurposing players that have been addressing the challenges of fast fashion, providing models to understand and consider.

As we approach Earth Day next week, we are putting a spotlight on these two sustainability-focused businesses:

Kantamanto Market in Accra, Ghana: The World’s Largest Secondhand Market

Kantamanto Market, operational since the 1960s, has played a pivotal role in extending the lifecycle of clothing. Accra, the capital of Ghana, receives an influx of approximately 15 million secondhand garments weekly. These garments are often items that charities struggle to distribute or resell. More than 30,000 vendors, traders, and retailers in Accra purchase these clothing items blindly by the bale, aiming to turn a profit through resale in the market.

a woman at a market and an overview of the market

Photo Credit: The Or Foundation (left) and Misper Apawu/The Guardian (right)

With the rise of fast fashion, the volume of imports to Kantamanto Market has surged while the quality of the garments has declined – leaving a significant portion of items unsuitable for resale. Around 60% of the donated clothing becomes waste that ends up either incinerated or dumped into the ocean or makeshift landfills. Organizations such as the Or Foundation provide training to Ghanaians on methods to repurpose fast fashion’s notorious low-quality clothing, including mending, film printing, embroidering, and recycling.

people on a beach with piles of discarded clothing

Photo Credit: Business Insider (Daniel Attoh and Modestus Zame / Kashif Khan Production)

Manteco in Prato, Italy: Premium, Recycled Textile Company

Since 1943, family-owned textile company Manteco has been a pioneer in sustainable fashion by transforming discarded garments into a proprietary recycled wool textile that is fully circular and zero-waste. Manteco primarily repurposes used clothing sourced from Europe and North America. The company specializes in producing low-impact, chemical-free fabrics that can be recycled repeatedly in a circular production model. Manteco’s repurposed wool is soft, breathable, and durable, mirroring characteristics of virgin wool. The recycled product defies preconceptions that recycled items are inferior to new, as its textiles are utilized in garments from renowned and designer brands across the globe.

clothing displayed in a store and bales of clothing at a warehouse

Photo Credit: Manteco (left) and Max (right)

Stay tuned for the release of our latest global Sustainability Report, which will provide additional thought-provoking ways to prioritize sustainability by reimagining your business. The report will be published this upcoming Monday in commemoration of Earth Day.

Maddie McBride

Maddie is an analyst on the consumer insights and innovation team at McMillanDoolittle, supporting quantitative and qualitative primary research methodologies, business analysis, strategic planning, and new concept, format and product development. She brings recent expertise in human-centered design, creative workshop facilitation, and statistical analysis to her project work. Maddie received her BA in Economics from the University of Notre Dame.

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