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BFC: New report on garment longevity

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Garment longevity Credits: Institute of Positive Fashion

The British Fashion Council’s (BFC) Institute of Positive Fashion (IPF), along with the support of Vanish, has unveiled a comprehensive insights report as part of Phase 2 of the Circular Fashion Ecosystem Project.

This new report aims to underscore the significance of empowering citizens to adopt garment care and maintenance practices through the integration of technology.

A prevailing concern within the fashion industry, as highlighted by global research from the Environmental Audit Committee in 2019, is the alarmingly low rate of garment recycling, with less than 1 percent of garments being recycled at the end of their life. According to Vanish, a primary reason for clothing disposal in the UK is wear and tear, which can be attributed to various factors, including subpar material quality and insufficient knowledge on proper garment care. To address these pressing challenges, collaborative efforts and research in the industry are imperative, especially in regards to consumer behavior and digital tracking systems in line with emerging technological advancements and upcoming regulatory mandates.

Co-authored with GreenWith Studio, the report centers around the utilisation of technology as a solution to key fashion industry challenges, such as low garment usage and the tendency to place blame on consumers for their consumption rates. Recommendations in the report are derived from existing research, encompassing literature reviews, qualitative consultations, and consumer insights observed by Codec. The central thrust revolves around the digitalization of garments from production to disposal, with the ultimate objective of extending their life cycle.

Technology is one solution to mitigate the industry's challenges

The report advocates leveraging existing technologies like RFID tags and QR codes to provide vital information and instructions on prolonging the life of clothes. These technologies can offer provenance and traceability information, as well as guidance on sustainable laundering, clothing repair, recycling, and responsible disposal. RFID and NFC technology can even enable washing machines to detect the garment's material composition and suggest appropriate wash and dry cycles along with the right detergent usage.

In alignment with the European Green Deal, digital product passports are set to become a fixture on all regulated fashion items. However, for this transformation to take hold, high-quality data from the entire supply chain is essential. This data should be certified and adhered to a set of universal standards.

A critical driver of behavioral change lies in equipping consumers with accurate information about a product's origin and providing tools to care for them. By increasing traceability, including details about where and by whom the garment was made, as well as the origins of its component parts, emotional investment in sustainable consumption can be fostered. Ultimately, this shift can lead the industry away from the current linear model of take, make, and dispose, towards embracing fashion as a sharing economy centered on service.

Caroline Rush, BFC Chief Executive, said: “We are so pleased to have carried out the necessary research outlining actionable and concrete steps towards driving down fashion’s footprint. Garment care is essential and encompasses crucial elements; traceability coupled with engaging storytelling will enable consumer change and sustainable consumption. We look forward to international and governmental coordination with all stakeholders across the fashion value chain, to set this change in motion”.

In 2020, the BFC launched IPF with the aim of uniting and accelerating the fashion industry towards sustainability and equity. The IPF's primary focus is on creating actionable pathways to address climate change, with the ultimate goal of establishing a circular fashion ecosystem in the UK by 2030. This initiative also aligns with the UK's commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The Circular Fashion Ecosystem (CFE) serves as the flagship program, driving industrial-scale change for the UK fashion industry.

Circular Fashion
Sustainable Fashion