As consumers, we regularly clean out our closets to keep up with the latest trends. But as fresh new styles continuously hit the shelves, what happens to the styles that don't sell? The fashion industry’s overall environmental impact and continued push towards more sustainable practices has become top-of-mind for both consumers, brands and retailers alike. In efforts to combat the impacts, consumers and companies have been exploring innovative change, and more and more consumers are selling their clothing, either directly via platforms like Poshmark and Mercari or through programs like Lululemon’s Like New and The North Face’s Renewed. However, while these channels productively decrease waste, the challenge of unsellable inventory remains. In this article you will learn more about what happens to unwanted and unsold clothing and footwear and how pre-market product testing is helping brands work toward sustainability through informed product creation processes.

What Happens to Unwanted Clothing?

Unwanted clothing is a sustainability challenge that can be addressed through product testing.

The rise of fast fashion has been contributing to discarded clothing and footwear. According to the BBC, the average American has been estimated to discard over 80 pounds of clothes every year. At the same time, consumers are buying more clothes than ever as they try to keep up with rapidly changing trends. Currently, the average American is estimated to buy an average of 64 items of clothing and 7.5 pairs of shoes per year.

Whether or not a consumer is purchasing 64 items of clothing a year or less, more clothing and footwear continues to enter wardrobes each year. The older items are left to hang in closets, or are discarded. Sustainable options for unwanted clothing still exist, including the option to donate them to local charities or even dropping them off at your local textile recycling bin. Regardless, 85% of our clothes still end up in a landfill or burned. How?

Donating your clothes is a great way to give your slightly worn clothes a second chance. However, roughly five percent of donated clothes are sent directly to landfills right away (this is mainly due to mildew issues). And if your clothes don’t end up selling at Goodwill or similar centers, they are then often donated to textile recycling centers. These textile recycling facilities are great as they repurpose textiles to be used in new products rather than end up in a landfill. But even if we tried to recycle all of our unwanted clothing, roughly 60 percent of it is not recyclable in the first place.

Why Can't Some Clothes Be Recycled?

Cost-effective and often non-renewable materials are often used to produce clothing. Much of this clothing is made from plastics which we know better as polyester, nylon, acrylic, etc. These synthetic fibers in our clothes are commonly made from crude oil and can be difficult to reuse.

According to Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART), these fibers can be processed into polyester chips; essentially plastic pellets that can become raw materials for fabrics again and used in new products. Though, while some materials can be processed into a recycled fiber, there is still a surplus of clothing being produced.

The rise of fast-fashion has changed the consumer mindset. Consumers expect their favorite brands to continuously deliver new, on-trend products, and do so for at a low prices. With consumers buying more clothes than ever, the retail footwear and apparel industry continues to meet demand. Renee Cho, staff writer for the Columbia Climate School, expands on how this demand has resulted in environmental impact which includes an estimated contribution of 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. Textile production itself is estimated to release 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year. Further, vast amounts of water are also needed to produce the clothes we wear too and the fashion industry’s processes are estimated to be responsible for upwards of 20% of global wastewater.

With the financial and environmental impacts of discarded clothing pressurizing manufactures, numerous brands and retailers have begun working ensure validated demand for new products. But what happens when brands and retailers get it wrong, and their products don’t sell as expected? As the seasons change and the latest trends die out, the unsold inventory needs to be addressed, as does the systemic challenge.

Making Change

Consumers’ growing awareness of these issues - and growing interest in sustainable practices - is causing them more carefully consider their purchasing options. And the industry is responding; more companies are holding themselves accountable for their natural impact and are working towards creating more sustainable products and processes. As segments of consumers and brands both move towards a more sustainable marketplace, some companies have started pioneered new solutions such as Lululemon’s Like New and The North Face’s Renewed mentioned above, which give slightly worn clothing another chance through brand-managed reselling.

Brands have also begun producing products with more sustainable sources, too, reducing their impact by conserving natural resources and decreasing their carbon footprint. As a recent example, Allbirds is already a carbon neutral business. (In April 2021, they even open-sourced their carbon footprint tool so other companies and consumers could benefit and learn more about their impact).

We're still at the beginning of brands trying to find new ways to restore our planet, but a fundamental way companies are working towards sustainability is by utilizing pre-market product testing feedback. While some operational areas of the clothing and apparel industry have been slow to embrace technology, utilizing pre-market feedback platforms such as MESH01 is an effective first step for becoming both responsive and responsible.

How Pre-Market Product Testing Supports Sustainability Initiatives

Pre-market product feedback can be an early step in the right direction towards multiple sustainability initiatives. From understanding which product ideas to invest in to mitigating the risk of costly quality issues, pre-market product testing provides solutions for brands trying to minimize textile waste and prevent discarded overstock. Here’s how.

Concept Testing for Sustainability: To Make or Not to Make

Product testers participating in concept testing are helping brands make sure ideas are worth developing, let alone producing (let alone making major inventory commitments to). Simply put, concept testing takes away the guessing game by allowing brands to:

  • Identify trends closer to market
  • Understand customer preferences and key drivers of purchases
  • Pass or fail product concepts before further development investments

Early in the product creation process, customer feedback is vital and the feedback obtained through concept testing sets products on paths to success. Through concept testing, brands can be confident in creating a product they know their consumers will love, with the right attributes to drive purchases. This early step also helps reduce the risks of overproducing, too, through confirming trend opportunities close to market and informing demand planning.

Product Testing for Sustainability: Getting Products Right the First Time

When an idea becomes validated by customers through pre-market concept testing, product testing then helps brands avoid market underperformance driven by quality or fit issues which result in high return rates, as well as potentially costly critical failures that can lead to recalls. Shipping goods globally and expends enormous amounts of fuel, and recalling products and product returns has potential significant environmental hazards. The increased use of fossil fuels, plastic wrapping, etc. contribute to production and consumption and inevitably, waste.

Product testing has allowed brands to meet customer expectations while becoming more sustainable through product creation. A great recent example is the innovative footwear brand Kizik, who saw a 50% decrease in product returns on a key item by using the MESH01 product testing platform. 

Further, product testing also gives brands the opportunity to explore different, more sustainable materials, too. Through product testing, manufacturers can effectively test how new materials may perform compared to previous ones. This can be a great way to hear back from consumers who have been using their products for years and can help inform if a switch to more sustainable materials will still meet customer expectations.

Both consumers and brands are more aware than ever of the collective impacts of production, shipping and consumption. Fortunately, product testers are eager and available to help brands figure out if they should commit to a concept and commit to an inventory purchase.

Keep Pushing

A push towards sustainability in the footwear and apparel industry is a push towards a better future for our environment and our favorite products. As consumers, our expectations are constantly morphing, and we have a growing desire for fresh new products. Through pre-market product testing, manufacturers and product developers can work with consumers to generate the information they need. They can now ensure that they are producing the right amount of the right products that are proven to perform.

Welcome! We're glad you're here. Many of your favorite brands are, too. By registering as a MESH01 tester, you've completed the first step towards shaping the world of products which we all enjoy. As a tester, you'll have opportunities to work directly with world-leading brands to help them ensure that they're going to market with the right products and the best products. Exciting, we know! Here, we'll give you an idea of what's expected of you -and what to expect- as a MESH01 tester.

The Importance of Your MESH01 Tester Profile

It's no secret that the best path to being selected to test a product on MESH01 is to make your profile stand out! But how, exactly, can you do that? Here are some of the most impactful updates and additions you can make to your MESH01 tester profile to help brands find you:

MESH01 Product Tester providing product test feedback from home
  • Smile! Make sure you have a profile picture. A picture is worth a thousand words and brands love getting a real feel for who they are selecting to participate in their product test.
  • Tell us about yourself, then tell us a little more. Be sure to go beyond your basic profile requirements. Utilize your Profile Surveys to communicate what makes you, you! After all, most brands create products with a very specific idea of their customer in mind. Give them the chance to see that that customer is you!
  • Keep your profile up to date. From your address to your activities and sizing, it's essential to make sure your profile is an accurate and current representation of you.

Keeping up with these areas of your profile will help paint a clear and exciting picture of you as a product tester and customer. This is a critical component of the brand/tester fit.

What Makes a Great Tester

There are a lot of factors that go into being a great product tester. We've made your research a bit easier. We've narrowed down some of the most important parts of sharing your customer voice during the product development stage.

  • Honesty: Brands value your honesty when testing. Don’t worry, feelings won’t be hurt if you don’t love a product. That’s the exact feedback they might be searching for! Brands know their current customers, while sometimes vocal in a constructive way, are most likely loyal fans (and sometimes this voice should be part of the feedback mix). Instead, many brands look to MESH01 testers for honest, constructive feedback to make their products and product experiences even better. So tell them what you really think and how you really feel!
  • Attention to Detail: Product research and testing is such a critical phase in the development process that requires high quality, detailed and relevant feedback so brands can make changes to their product that will ensure its success in the market. By providing all the feedback and detail you want to share, in the form of survey response, product performance zone feedback, and activity logs, you are adding valuable data to a critical stage in the product development process.
  • Reliability: Being mindful of timing and fully completing test requirements on those test timelines plays a huge role. In an effort to bring on-trend products to market, brands work with certain deadlines. These deadlines are often accelerated to bring on-trend products to market as fast as high-quality product development can allow! Working together and meeting deadlines according to a test design and timeline will make the testing experience much more seamless for everybody.
  • Dedication: Another great benefit is testing in your natural environment, do not hesitate to bring the product fully into your life. We encourage you to test in your kitchen, at the jobsite, on a hike, or on the playing field–wherever use of the product is most applicable and appropriate. This only enables you to give genuine, accurate feedback about how well the product met or didn’t meet your expectations, and provides brands with valuable information they can’t generate in the lab.

Being Part Of Our Amazing Community

Our brands expect our community to provides exceptional feedback. With this considered, it does not take away from the extraordinary input and participation we receive from them. Nor does not take away from the fantastic experience our testers face while helping brands create excellent products. As a tester, you test products that fit your lifestyle and areas of expertise. Generally, making it easy to incorporate new products into your lives. Most importantly, also give proper feedback on how to improve them!

'What I love about MESH01 is that I get the opportunity to test great products and give meaningful feedback to the companies from whom I purchase all the things that help me in my running journey and beyond.'

– Tracy Linder, MESH01 Tester

Here at MESH01, we love being an addition to our tester's lives. Each tester helps shape the products they use daily for the better. Additionally, they also bring something valuable and unique to each test. Check out some of your fellow community members to learn more about their experiences at MESH01.

What to Expect as a MESH01 Tester

It's an exciting and special opportunity when you're selected to participate in product test. If you participate, you'll often be seeing a product before the rest of the world does. Above all, you also be ensuring that countless others receive a quality product that meets or exceeds their expectations. That's why it is essential to understand that becoming a product tester is all about being the right fit at the right time.

You're part of a 50,000+ product tester community that is growing daily, and brands search for the best testers for their concepts and prototypes. And a brand looking to test a running shoe wouldn't select someone who doesn't run, right? When invited to or chosen for a concept test or product test, it means that your profile fits the target audience criteria for that product. The frequency of this test/tester fit depends on many factors, including your sizing, level of participation, location and climate, and sometimes much more. But don't let the idea of specific tester needs discourage you. You'll likely be a good fit for something, so just be sure to keep your profile up to date!

MESH01 is a flexible product testing platform that supports various use cases and test designs from product concept testing to final prototype or sample tests. Not only can different brands test differently, but the same brand may have many different types of tests that they run. When a good test/tester fit happens for you, brands will often be very clear about their specific testing needs before they finalize their tester "roster". This gives you a final opportunity to evaluate the test requirements and make a decision about whether or not the test is right for you. So, expect from them clarity on the test requirements, and in return for your participation, keeping the tested product (before it even hits the market) is a common "thank you".

We hope this post helps you understand what you can do to be a great tester, and what to expect from your product testing experience!

Happy testing!

How Your Feedback Plays a Major Role in Brands' Success

MESH01 product testers, do you wonder about the different impacts you're making through concept testing vs. product testing? Let us explain. According to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, there are over 30,000 new products introduced every year, and 95% fail. As a MESH01 tester, you work directly with brands to ensure that their products see success when it's time to hit the market. Whether these products are safe bets or the risky idea that might actually pay off, brands know it's critical to look at their products through the lenses of their customers.

How Product Testers Contribute along the Product Creation Timeline

Developing a product comes with a lot of trial and error across multiple points. To simplify, testing typically happens at a couple points within the first 5 major product development stages:

  1. Market research
  2. Ideation
  3. Concept testing
  4. Prototyping
  5. Product testing

At MESH01, we're obsessed with helping brands optimize the steps of concept testing and product testing, all with the help of our amazing community. Your feedback plays different roles in concept testing vs. product testing, and it all starts by talking to the right people.

You're an Important Part of a Product Tester Community

As a MESH01 tester, you're part of a 50,000-person community responsible for seeking out and reporting on the good and bad before products are launched. There is a lot at stake when you are participating in a test, and the brands' expectations are high. That's why we value and support your honesty and reliability as a tester. Don't like the design? The fit is too small? Let them know. That is the exact type of feedback brands are looking for when they introduce their concepts and products to our community. They know the echo-chambers of friends, co-workers and family can result in glowing (albeit usually late) reviews. They also know those feedback loops don't translate into product performance in the market.

Brands know they need the real voice of the customer before launching their products. Your voice.

When selected for a concept or product test, you fit the target audience criteria for that product. Our community of testers can be browsed by hyper-specific attributes like your lifestyle, interests, activities, occupation, and even info products used. This is all provided through you provide through your complete profile and surveys. Whether you are a marathon runner or casual jogger, professional athlete or weekend warrior, brands look to find the most relevant and reliable feedback for their product. And when you're the right fit, they rely on your tester experience to inform their product development decisions.

Concept Testing: Product Testers Help Bring Ideas to Life

Early on, your feedback is vital for product creation and the numerous decision-making processes within. So you may be curious, what do brands benefit from when you participate in a concept test? Great question. This early stage in the product creation process is responsible for identifying product ideas and directions that will set the path for bringing promising product ideas to life. Common reasons brands concept test with you include:

  • Identifying trends close to product development
  • Validating market opportunities
  • Understanding customer preferences and drivers of interest
  • Passing or failing product concepts before further development investment
  • Prioritizing features and attributes
  • Optimizing product positioning including naming, descriptions and pricing

That’s a lot of power! While often faster than a product test -typically a single survey- these concept tests are responsible for identifying, curating and nurturing future product opportunities. And it all starts with you.

Product Testing: Product Testers Help Create Exceptional Product Experiences

Once a product concept gets the seal of approval from the MESH01 tester community, brands begin work on prototypes to be used for real-life, hands-on experience. During the product testing stage, you're asked to meet a set of 'test expectations'. These expectations are designed to cover all of ways in which a brand's product will be used. Following and completing these expectations accurately and on time helps companies test their products in realistic circumstances so they do not miss any critical performance feedback before product launch. No pressure!

You also help determine whether a product needs some adjustments or is ready to hit the market. How?

  • By alerting brands of any critical product failures during testing
  • Logging use, wear and tear over time
  • Noting any discomfort, durability or quality issues via your visual product feedback tools
  • Completing and answering product testing surveys that help brands validate what's working
  • Following any additional test requirements, which might include media uploads and more

As you can see, product testing is an essential part of developing a quality product. It allows brands to create products that set new trends and delight us all as customers.

Your feedback plays different and valuable roles in determining whether a product is ready to hit the market or needs improvement. Next time you are participating in an MESH01 concept test or product test, remember that you are shaping the world of products we all enjoy. After all, at MESH01 we work with so many of the worlds leading brands, and our outstanding community plays a crucial role in that success!

We’re sorry to break it to you, but your shoe size is probably wrong.

Before you panic and start throwing away all your shoes (unless you were looking for a good reason to do just that), let us explain.

First, you’re not alone. Research shows that up to 72% of people are wearing incorrectly fitting shoes. Right now, you could be wearing shoes that do not accommodate the length or width of your feet or be wearing shoes that do not comfortably solve for other specific foot-based needs - or some combination of these issues.

What are the risks of ill-fitting shoes? Wearing the wrong shoe size can result in foot pain and foot problems ranging anywhere from inconvenient chafing and blisters to more long-term issues like chronic heel pain, metatarsalgia and more.

How can you make sure you're wearing the right shoe size? The solution is simple; measure your feet.

Your best and most accurate option would be to utilize a Brannock device, which is the metal measuring instrument found in shoe stores that measures both the length and width of your foot. If you’re saying to yourself “oh right, I remember that thing from when I was a younger”, you’re probably long overdue for another measurement.

Want to get an accurate shoe size measurement from home? Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered.

How to Accurately Measure Your Shoe Size at Home

Before we get started, you’ll want to make sure you’re wearing the same type of socks you plan to normally wear with the new shoes. Also, for a more accurate measurement, wait until the end of the day. Once you've got the right socks and the right timing, here's how to accurately measure your shoe size at home:

  1. Take a piece of paper and secure it with tape to the floor.
  2. Stand with one foot on the paper and a slightly bend your knees. You can also sit in a chair, but if you do, make sure your feet are firmly planted on the ground.
  3. Next, using a fine pen or sharp pencil, trace the outline of your foot on the paper. Try to draw a precise outline. (A friend or family member can be useful for this step!)
  4. Repeat the process with the other foot.
  5. Take a ruler or measuring tape and measure the distance between the tip of your big toe and the outermost part of the heel to find the length of your feet.
  6. Lastly, measure the widest points of your forefoot and the distance between to find your foot width.

From here, you can match up your measurements to the shoe size charts provided by your favorite brands. If you notice one foot being longer or wider, which is not uncommon, we recommend using your larger measurement when selecting a shoe size.

The Importance of Knowing Your Shoe Size for Product Testing

A shopper finding the right shoe size

It’s important that you reference you favorite brands' sizing charts as not all brands use the same sizing. Brands are not only building shoes on different lasts but also may have different sizing measurements. Initially you may think that the shoes just need to be broken in, however, the brand’s size chart might indicate that you could be a totally different size.

Understanding your shoe measurements and brand-specific sizing can help you enjoy your product testing experience without the hassle of dealing with incorrect fitting shoes. Here, we recommend adding your known shoe size to your tester profile, or simply matching up your measurements to your favorite brands' sizing charts and updating your profile accordingly.

On MESH01, there's even an option to include your running shoe size, should you wear a different size for running.

Tips for Getting a Great Fit

You have measured your feet correctly for an accurate shoe size. Great! We've gathered some expert tips to ensure that you get the most out of your shoe purchase and testing experiences!

  1.  Carefully look at reviews for the product you are interested in, making sure to read the good and the bad.
  2. When possible, try the shoes on before you buy. You should have at least a quarter- to a half-inch of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe, depending on the shoe type and end use. Some specialized footwear like climbing approach shoes may be sized with your toes snug up against the toe box, etc. Make sure to match your fit for your intended use.
  3. Walk around in the shoes to determine the fit. Take note on the amount of room at the balls of the feet, toe box and heels. Make sure your foot doesn’t slip in and out and your ankle collar doesn’t rub. These are all indications of shoe that don’t fit. Don’t overlook these factors and instead find shoes that fit from the start.
  4. Take some additional time to examine the feel. Determine whether they give proper cushion both on hard surfaces and carpet and take into consideration additional performance attributes important to you.

Figuring out your real shoe size is easy to do. Ill-fitting shoes can be the cause of short term and long term injury. Do your feet a favor. Get to know your measurements to improve your daily life and get the best out of your product testing experience.

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