According to UN Climate Change, the emissions made by textile and apparel production will rise to more than 60% by 2030. In an already saturated planet, this growth rate is impossible to handle without radically shifting the whole process into sustainability.
Being sustainable is not just a brand asset anymore, it is the only possible future for fashion and industry and government need to combine efforts to make it work. During the last G7-Summit was signed a Fashion Pact by French President Emmanuel Macron, Kering chairman François-Henri Pinault, and other 31 major fashion companies like Adidas, Chanel, and Inditex.
The G7 Fashion Pact marks the first serious push by a coalition of private-sector companies to reduce the environmental impact of the global fashion industry. Among its goals are switching operations to 100% renewable energy and eliminating the use of single-use plastics (in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer packaging) by 2030.
In our work, we can feel a big shift in consumer behaviour which is finally forcing the industry to change. According to the Fashion Revolution Consumer Survey Report, 61% of fashion consumers are interested in how brands reduce environmental impact and protect workers’ rights. It’s an optimistic number and a reason for cautious celebration. Drapers’ Sustainability Survey, on the other hand, shows the high costs of being sustainable and the unwillingness of consumers to pay the price.
There’s still a long way to go until fashion turns fully sustainable, but stay strong: it’s going to happen. There are some good examples been applied, and all of them evolve our two preferred things: technology, and education.
Gucci and the Kering Group are actively investing in being the avant-garde of sustainable growth. They’ve created the Gucci Equilibrium, a program based on three pillars: environment, people, and new models of sustainable innovation. One of the projects is called Scrap-less and has been created to reduce the amount of treated leather during the manufacturing process, which uses energy, water, and chemicals, creating significant waste.
Ikea has recently committed to stop producing new polyester fabrics and use exclusively recycled textiles in its products. Currently, half of the brand’s textiles are from recycled polyester, and the goal is to reach 100% by 2020. With this initiative, Ikea is going one step further into becoming a circular business, reducing gas emissions, saving energy, and decreasing pollution of landfills and oceans.
An independent initiative is trying to extend the lifespan of 92 million tons of textile wasted by the fashion industry annually. The R Collective is a clothing brand that rescues excess materials from world-leading luxury designers, upcycling and creating new garments. Besides trimming environmental impact, The R Collective also grants 25% of profits to the Redress program, the charity in Hong Kong where the project was born.
Academia is also working to reduce the environmental impact of textiles. Four designers from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College created the Shellwork project, where they have designed machines to transform lobster shells into bioplastic. The material is versatile and has been used to make anti-bacterial blister packaging, food-safe carrier bags, and self-fertilizing plant pots.
New technologies can lead us to a new level of transparency in the production chain. From materials to the consumer’s home, every step of this path can be followed using the IoT or Blockchain, with solutions such as tracking systems in the garments. All this data has the potential to revolutionise our industry, but not until we revolutionise the process itself. By further spreading information among consumers, technology can provide us with data for making more ethical decisions and to achieve sustainable development.
Stella McCartney and Google are pioneering supply chain transparency. They chose a challenging path, hoping to fill one of the most significant gaps: the production of cotton and viscose. They have set out to use algorithms to collect and analyze data on the emissions, water use, pollution, and soil impact. As one of the founding signatories of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, Stella McCartney is honouring her commitment to a more sustainable industry.
Here at ThePowerHouse we are committed to creating a bright and sustainable future for fashion – technology can help us on this mission. Contact us to find out more and how we can help! Have a look at our current projects.