"Although the fashion industry has kept pace with changing consumer demands, it fails to cater to their most important need that of altering consumption patterns to ensure the survival of the planet. The industry produces 20 per cent of global wastewater and 10 per cent of global carbon emissions with textile dyeing being the second largest polluter of water globally. If this situation persists, by 2050 the fashion industry will have consumed almost a quarter of the world’s carbon budget."
Although the fashion industry has kept pace with changing consumer demands, it fails to cater to their most important need that of altering consumption patterns to ensure the survival of the planet. The industry produces 20 per cent of global wastewater and 10 per cent of global carbon emissions with textile dyeing being the second largest polluter of water globally. If this situation persists, by 2050 the fashion industry will have consumed almost a quarter of the world’s carbon budget.
However, consumers are demanding change and the fashion world is responding. A-listers, like Duchess Meghan Markle are discarding traditional choices of clothing and designers and dumping the take-make-waste model. Fashion retailers are adopting initiatives to reduce fashion’s negative impact on the environment. For example, last year, Britain’s Stella McCartney teamed up with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to launch a report on redesigning fashion’s future.
Across the United Nations, agencies are working to make fashion more sustainable, from the Food and Agricultural Organization protecting arable land, to the Ethical Fashion Initiative set up by the International Trade Centre to the work of UN Environment in fostering sustainable manufacturing practices.
Shoes from algae, recycled plastic and gum
Entrepreneurs are designing the fashion of the future. For instance Spanish footwear company Ecoalf is making shoes from algae and recycled plastic as a part of its Upcycling the Oceans collection. The company collects ocean plastics from 33 ports and turns the trash into shoes, clothing and bags.
Similarly, Amsterdam-based GumDrop turns gum into a new kind of rubber, Gum-tec, which is then used to make shoes in collaboration with marketing group I Amsterdam and fashion company Explicit.
Fashion from waste materials
Outdoor gear retailer Patagonia alongwith Polartec, a Massachusetts-based textile designer produces fleece jackets using polyester from recycled bottles while Gothenburg-based Nudie Jeans makes jeans from organic cotton. Cambodia-based Tonlé uses surplus fabric from mass clothing manufacturers to create zero-waste fashion collections.
In the Netherlands, Wintervacht turns blankets and curtains into coats and jackets. While San Francisco- and Bali-based Indosole turns discarded tyres in Indonesia into shoes, sandals and flip-flops, while Swiss firm Freitag upcycles tarpaulins, seat belts and bicycle inner tubes to make their bags and backpacks.
A zero-waste fashion model
Creating a zero-waste fashion model is the order of the day for many etailers. Canada-based Novel Supply is developing a take-back programme to find alternative ways to use garments at the end of their life. Lifestyle brand and jeans manufacturer Guess is teaming up with i:Collect, which collects, sorts and recycles clothes and footwear worldwide, to launch a wardrobe recycling programme in the US. Under this programme, wearable items will be recycled as secondhand goods, while unwearable items will be turned into new products like cleaning cloths or made into fibres for products like insulation.
Focusing on rental market
As recycling is an energy intensive process and does not address our throwaway culture, the rental market offers a viable alternative. However, for the rental model to be successful, companies need to offer sufficient choice of brands and styles that would engage consumers and tempt them away from outright purchase. Also, the rental service needs to be smooth and faultless.
Some pioneers of the rental market include: Dutch firm Mud Jeans, which leases organic jeans that can be kept, swapped or returned, Rent the Runway, Girl Meets Dress and YCloset in China.