The Coronavirus crisis has highlighted many flaws of the current fashion industry. We rapidly learned about one-sided order cancellations and the rippling effects through supply chains leading to escalating social issues. The fashion industry needs a dramatic makeover, and a circularity movement has the right tools to make it happen. Discover why a circular fashion approach is the only solution that truly works and how brands can do better today.
Reason #1: Too much waste and too few resources.
Did you know that Europeans consume on average 26 kg of textiles per person per year? What’s even more staggering is that less than 1% of textile waste is recycled into new garments. That is clearly not a sustainable approach that will last, and the circular economy brings solutions from recycling to renting to simply buying less.
Reason #2: Unfair practises are everywhere.
Working conditions in garment factories were under scrutiny for many years, but it always seemed like a problem far too distant to solve. When the allegations against the UK’s biggest retailer Boohoo surfaced about their unfair treatment of garment workers in their homeland, the true scope of this issue was finally exposed. And this problem doesn’t end there. Let’s not start talking about Amazon and the continuous indifference to unsafe and gruelling conditions at their warehouses.
Reason #3: Sustainability without inclusion is meaningless.
When sustainable brand Reformation found itself in the spotlight of shocking accusations of racism, many started asking what makes a business truly sustainable. It has become clear that the current sustainability standard is no longer enough, and fashion brands need a holistic approach: becoming a force for good that fights injustice on all fronts.
The Reformation slogan of being the second most sustainable option has been called into question.
What should fashion businesses do now?
1. Commitment to ethics, inclusivity, and diversity
Sustainability goes hand in hand with ethical behaviour: from having proper workforce protection to better wage systems to developing a traceable supply chain. Such commitment is underscored by having an inclusive and diverse approach.
An example of progress is Prada that requested Ava Duvernay to join the diversity and inclusion advisory council after selling a line of figurines evoking racist imagery.
2. Holistic cooperation
When drawing up your sustainable strategy, work together with circular partners, e.g. nonprofits such as Fair Wear Foundation. Get their input and partner up with local initiatives to make an impact where it’s needed the most. For example, Levi’s paid up their suppliers after mounting pressure from Worker Rights Consortium and granted $1 million to address the needs of workers in sourcing communities.
3. Transparent Communication
Lastly, be trustworthy as a brand by communicating transparently. Be aligned with association members, employees, and customers. Involve them and ask them what they think.
What does the future of fashion look like?
Looking at the current state of fashion, Sanjeev Bahl, the founder and Chief Executive of Saitex, notes: “The pandemic has forced all of us to take a step back and reset our priorities. One key takeaway that has clearly emerged is that a new transparent model that showcases verified sustainable practices will have an edge over other traditional business models.” That’s a future worth looking forward to.
-- Rethink Rebels are leading experts on sustainability and circularity in the fashion industry. In September, they will be launching an exclusive Rethink Rebels Academy where they will share insider knowledge and valuable expertise to help you make a change in the fashion industry. RethinkRebels is giving away free spots on their sustainable strategy course at the “RethinkRebels Academy”. Win a free masterclass! Click here.