The truth about fashion waste

Take even a cursory glance at the amount of waste created from fashion and textiles and you’ll likely feel both terrified and appalled. The numbers are startling: of the 90 billion garments bought by consumers each year, around 65 billion are discarded after just three weeks. Every second one truckload of textile waste is thrown away, most of it incinerated or ending up on a landfill. It’s this waste that lies at the heart of Amsterdam’s The M-ODE Foundation’s mission: to change the way the world values and creates clothes.

Changing the world is a big ask, but after spending an afternoon with The M-ODE Foundation founder Peter Leferink, I amsterdam wouldn’t bet against him achieving everything he’s aiming to do. Leferink certainly has the credentials – after studying fashion in Amsterdam he moved to Belgium to work with the famous ‘Antwerp Six’ fashion designers, nowadays he runs his own fashion consultancy and is principal design lecturer at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. His partner at M-ODE, Iris Ruisch, is a former creative director at Amsterdam Fashion Week.

An introduction to The M-ODE Foundation

As introductions go, Leferink’s vision of what The M-ODE Foundation wants to do is both bold and admirable. “With everyone we work with we’re driven by a motivation to do good,” he explains. “And to do good things with other people. We want to promote sustainability but also to help designers, startups and fashion entrepreneurs create long-standing relationships and healthy businesses.” He tells the story of a single coat, passed down from his grandfather to his father, and then from his father to him. He still wears it today. “In today’s world the idea that you buy an item that you invest more in but take better care of and keep for 10, 20 years [doesn’t really exist]. People aren’t used to that anymore,” Leferink adds. “Changing that mentality is a challenge, but so important.”

Peter Leferink

Photo: Peter Leferink

Despite launching M-ODE just last year, the foundation is already connecting young talent and established brands with a network of investors and partners that could help them grow and develop further. “We are able to connect people we support with a bigger network of people that are involved in business development, business ethics or business funding,” Leferink explains.

Support from the City of Amsterdam and other partners

As well as mentoring, the foundation is also playing a big part in Amsterdam’s upcoming We Make the City festival with We Make M-ODE, a series of multi-disciplinary events that connects the city and its residents with innovative and sustainable fashion and its designers. It features fashion shows, presentations and pop-up shops focusing on sustainable clothing taking place in various venues across the city, including Westergas's Zuiveringshal West and Machinegebouw. During one unique event, famous Dutch designer Bas Kosters and his team will create an entire new collection made from clothes that have been thrown in the dump.

Leferink says that the scope and scale of We Make M-ODE bloomed after the ‘overwhelming’ support of both the people at We Make the City and investors who have helped fund M-ODE’s activities, including the City of Amsterdam, Stadsdeel West, and Dutch banks Rabobank and Circl/ABN-AMRO. “Our idea for a modest event became a bit bigger,” Leferink explains. “The support and enthusiasm we got from the City of Amsterdam and various other partners was really overwhelming. I thought people would help us, but we didn’t expect people would get so behind us. That’s exciting.”

A bright future for Dutch sustainability

We Make the City hasn’t even taken place yet, but Leferink is already planning a host of new events and initiatives, including one upcoming scheme that will see the foundation hand out free sweaters with a designer print on them to children to promote its message. They are also finalising a new package that will see the foundation offer more support – including investment – to fashion entrepreneurs and startups. “We’re planning how we could offer packages that would include financial support and mentoring for a period of one to three years in every aspect of building up a healthy company,” explains Leferink.

Bas Kosters

Photo: Bas Kosters is renowned for his unique designs

Despite the foundation’s ambitious aim, Leferink remains optimistic about the future of sustainability in fashion, especially in the Netherlands. “Generally, people in the Netherlands don’t value fashion,” he says. “But in terms of sustainability in fashion we are doing okay. If you look around you could say Scandinavia is ahead of everything – they’re really into sustainability and a change of systems and approach. There’s less in the Netherlands, however there’s people here who are working hard on it.”

Leferink cites Dutch designers Bas Kosters, Alexander van Slobbe and Francisco van Benthum as people who are paving the way for a new approach by putting sustainability at the core of everything they do. “They are really into a sustainable way of designing,” Leferink explains. “Educational centres are also really into sustainable design, so the Netherlands is catching up. And it’s becoming more important in the Dutch fashion world.” And with that our time with Leferink is over, but as we say our goodbyes, we can’t help but feel that Leferink might yet see his dream of a truly sustainable future of fashion come true. Even if he has to do it one wardrobe at a time.

Find out more about The M-ODE Foundation or see more testimonials from Amsterdam's creative sector