The world does not need any more merch.

by Charli Cox

The world does not need any more merch—specifically t-shirts. There are a lot of them, and they take a lot to produce. A lot of water, roughly 2,700 litres, to make just one T-shirt, according to WWF. In Aotearoa, we import over 380,000 tonnes of textile products each year, with well over half that amount ending up landfilled where they sit, releasing emissions.

Think of all the t-shirts you own or have owned. There is the perfect boxy white tee, perhaps a limited edition run you purchased from your favourite brand, and the ones you “borrow” from your partner. And then there are the ones you didn’t choose but that you end up with, like the T-shirt work gave you, the one you had to wear for an event and the one you bought to raise money for a cause where a monetary donation would have sufficed.

These tees are the ones that either people drop off at the door of Sally’s late at night or dump in the clothing bins that likely end up landfilled or burned. Sometimes they go straight to the trash. No one wants to purchase those t-shirts because no one wants to walk around à la sandwich board. We have to ask, what are the impacts of creating merch outside of our bubble?

Recently we were contacted by an organisation, enquiring if we would take seventy-five of their promotional t-shirts. That is a firm no. What are we going to do with them? There was apparently no need for these tees in the future, and I would argue there was no need for them in the first place.

In Aotearoa, we do not have the facilities to process textiles. It would be amazing if we did, but that capability largely left our shores in the early 90s when open trade agreements saw cheap overseas imports flood the country. Those single-use t-shirts that nobody wanted, discarded at a charity shop, are often sold off in bulk for profit and exported to third-world countries, displacing local garment manufacturing and oppressing the future development of similar domestic industries.

We have always championed quality. And we want people in our communities to have access to what they need and want to wear. Seeing our regulars at pop-ups, what they wear and the confidence with which they wear it; is everything. When people feel they have meaningful choice and control of what they wear outside of uniform, there is esteem and dignity. There is liberty. And everyone deserves that.

The idea of sustainable manufacturing needs to be adapted from within and throughout the supply chain. The impact we have on our environment and the urgency we need to change our behaviours are not apparent to all. There is already so much clothing in circulation. The world does not need more merch. We aim to keep as much clothing out of landfill and on-shore as humanly possible.

All clothing sourced from our local communities goes back out to our local communities. Reduce, reuse and help us keep on supporting those in need out there. We are incredibly grateful for all the people who donate quality clothing, our brand partners and all of you who purchase pre-loved from us—who support our mission of uplifting and serving our communities.