Today the British Fashion Council (BFC)’s Institute of Positive Fashion (IPF), supported by Vanish, launch a new insights report to highlight the importance of empowering citizens on garment care and maintenance through use of technology, as part of Phase 2 of the Circular Fashion Ecosystem Project.
Wider industry research shows that globally, less than 1% of garments are recycled at the end of life (Source: Environmental Audit Committee, 2019). According to Vanish, the principal reason that clothing in the UK is discarded is that the item is worn out. Clothing is worn out for various reasons, including poor material quality and lack of knowledge on garment care. Research and industry collaboration is therefore critical on this topic. There is a pressing need for stakeholders to address consumer practices, as well as digital tracking systems in line with technological innovations and upcoming regulatory requirements.
The report has been co-authored with GreenWith Studio, and focuses on how leveraging technology can help to address key challenges facing the fashion industry, including low usage and blame being placed on the consumer for their high consumption rates. Recommendations from the report are based on existing research including literature reviews, qualitative consultations and observed consumer insights conducted by Codec. From this, the overarching conclusion articulates itself around technology and the digitalisation of garments from production to disposal, with the aim of extending their life cycle:
- Existing technologies such as RFID tags and QR codes need to be leveraged to provide necessary information and instructions on how to prolong the life of clothes
- Provenance and traceability information, as well as instructions on sustainable laundering and how to repair, recycle and dispose of clothes should also be included in QR codes.
- RFID and NFC technology will enable washing machines to detect what type of material the garment is made of, and suggest relevant wash and dry cycles with correct detergent usage.
- Digital product passports will be on all regulated products according to the European Green Deal.
- High quality data is needed from across the supply chain, which is certified and applied against a set of universal standards.
In order to drive behavioral change, consumers need to be provided accurate information about the provenance of products, as well as the tools on how to care for them. Increasing traceability (where the garment was made, and by who, where all its component parts were made, and by who), will therefore increase emotional investment. Ultimately, this will help shift the industry’s current take, make, dispose linear model, to seeing fashion as a sharing economy based 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”.