The Steps Fashion Must Take to Hit Its Sustainability Goals

“As we know, a miracle must happen to save fashion,” trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort wrote to me this week in an email.

I asked for my thoughts on what a more responsible fashion industry could look like. It reflects a kind of grim, but stubborn determination to pursue change at the end of a year when the industry as a whole has (again) made no meaningful progress towards it.

Instead, a widespread greenwashing crackdown led by European regulators has revealed just how volatile the commitments of big brands really are, even as supply chains are starting to feel the effects of extreme weather linked to global warming. It became clear that there was

If this sounds like a depressing note to end the year, consider this: The fact that fashion companies are being challenged and held accountable for flimsy sustainability claims is progressing itself.

Ken Packer, Senior Lecturer at Tufts-Fletcher School and former Timberland Chief Operating Officer, said: “We have to be honest. We live on a finite planet… [and] No more synthetic jumpers you wear for 20 minutes. ”

A radical solution to this tension between the fashion industry’s pursuit of profit-driven growth and its environmentally and socially responsible business is gaining recognition, the anti-capitalist concept of ‘degrowth’. The concept has emerged as the fashionable buzzword of the year, but there’s little indication the brand is actually pushing it. for change.

Vidhura Ralapanawe, Head of Sustainability and Innovation at Hong Kong-based manufacturer Epic Group, said: Brands are pushing their sustainability efforts, but they are still pushing costs and risks onto their suppliers.

Fundamentally, the incentives that drive the industry need to change. This needs to be driven by regulation or market action to price the protection of natural resources to the cost of commodities and their production, encouraging better environmental stewardship and imposing financial penalties on polluters. is needed.

“The biggest thing for me in this industry is the hitherto elusive idea of ​​redefining value,” said Claire Bergkamp. “We need to make that system work better for us as human beings…we need to think beyond just value for shareholders.”

Change can also come from consumers whose priorities and motivations are changing, along with a growing cultural awareness of the impact of fashion. “This whole hype era has become completely ridiculous,” says Alec Leach, former fashion editor and author of the book “The World Is on Fire But We’re Still Buying Shoes.” said. “Consumers are starting to realize how much fashion is overkill.”

Edelkoort argues that the current model isn’t just bad for the planet and the people who make the clothes, it’s also unraveling the creative fabric of the industry.

“If I were a designer, I would try to reinvent my profession with a focus on fibers and fabrics, giving new sensibilities to how clothes feel and behave… all the senses. A being, plants, animals, humans and planets,” she said.

“But most of all, I want to reinvent the thrill of fashion as a human expression.”

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