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Upscale retailer Takashimaya to recycle old apparel into $500 coats

Recovering polyester can cut CO2 emissions by 60%

Takashimaya and its partners believe recycling can more than offset the rising prices of raw materials for high-end apparel sold at their stores.

TOKYO -- Japanese department store operator Takashimaya will team with 15 fashion brands to recycle used clothes to make brand-new apparel as it doubles down on sustainability efforts.

About 40 items will debut on Takashimaya's upscale stores and its online shop, with most of them sold in the same price range as conventional counterparts -- including a winter coat priced at about 60,000 yen ($547).

The move marks one of the first large-scale recycling collaborations between retailers and clothing manufacturers in Japan. The partners seek to broaden the program to about 100 companies so that products can be mass-produced and costs are reduced as well.

Takashimaya will begin collecting worn clothing from any manufacturer at its stores.

Among the collected items, products made of polyester will be sorted out for producing recycled resin, with this work handled by reclaiming technology specialist Jeplan. Recycled resin will be processed into polyester yarn at a spinning mill operated by a Takashimaya business partner. Cotton, silk and other materials will also be turned into renewable materials.

The recycled polyester will then be used for brand-new products from brands such as Mackintosh Philosophy from Sanyo Shokai and outdoor gear company White Mountaineering. 

Tapping recycled polyester will reduce petroleum use, slashing carbon dioxide emissions from refining process by 60%, Jeplan estimates.

That said, the recycling process brings added costs. But Takashimaya and its partners believe recycling can more than offset the rising prices of raw materials for high-end apparel sold at their stores. They also intend to expand the initiative, inviting other fashion brands and popular designers to reduce costs.

Efforts for a circular economy are gaining traction in the global fashion industry. U.S. outdoor gear company Patagonia has pledged to sell products made exclusively from recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2025. Swedish group H&M touts a similar initiative.

In Japan last year, Fast Retailing's Uniqlo put polo shirts made of recycled polyester on store shelves, but items using renewable materials that debuted in June sold for about 1,000 yen more than conventional clothes. The costs associated with recycled clothing remain a challenge.   

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