Published On: January 3, 2023

This is what happened to my Madewell sweater after I wore it ONCE. One single wear and it’s so covered in pills that it looks like trash (you can see it in a video over on instagram if you want to watch me flop it around while describing its faults).

I suspect this is because they made it out of what they call (Re)sourced Cashmere. They don’t give a lot of information on what that actually means. It seems to be mostly of a marketing term meant to make you feel like you’re being environmentally responsible by buying poorly made clothing. But they do include a bullet point on the product listing that says:

• Do Well: this style is made of recycled cashmere and wool from certified farms that take a progressive approach to managing their land and caring for their sheep.

My best guess is that their recycled cashmere has even shorter fibers than cashmere usually does, and then is loosely spun and loosely knit to make a fabric that is soft but has absolutely no substance and so pills after a single wear and falls apart after two or three wears.

Fabric like this is literally where the word shoddy comes from! “Shoddy was a sort of cheap cloth made by pressing together scraps of reclaimed wool. This inferior-quality material was inexpensive, but it would not stand up under heavy use” (from historian J. Matthew Gallman’s book Defining Duty in the Civil War). And shoddy, in its more current sense, is exactly what I’d call this sweater.

I’m going to work on salvaging it (and mending some of the other sweaters from this material that developed massive holes in them after less than a season of wear) over the next few days. Because I do have the tools and skills to salvage them well enough to at least wear them at home.

But I wanted to talk bluntly about this here because making an inferior product that will fall apart after a few wears (again, this is what it looked like after One Single Wear) while pretending to be “better for the planet, better for its people” is really rather rotten.

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