Consumers are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious in their purchasing decisions and fashion – one of the worst-polluting industries of all – is grappling with ways to meet this demand and become more sustainable. Though eco-fashion means different things to different shoppers, with labels such as “vegan”, “local”, “organic”, “recycled” appealing to different types of sustainability warriors, there is no doubt that this is the trend of the moment with e-shops such as Lyst reporting a 47% rise in customers looking for items with ethical credentials.
While these labels are going some way to making the industry more sustainable, they are only really scratching at the surface of the issue. If fashion brands want to make a genuine difference, the entire industry structure needs to be overhauled, making a radical shift from the linear to the circular economy. While this may seem a tall order, the fact is that the future is green: when better to start than now?
Luckily a whole host of innovative fashion technologies can be harnessed to make a move to sustainability, including wearables, circular consumption models, connected supply chain, 3D solutions, nanomaterials, robotics, bio-based materials, renewable energy, bioenergy and biomimicry to name just a few. However, in isolation these solutions are not enough to make the total transformation required to be entirely sustainable: piecemeal initiatives can even backfire by being perceived as mere “greenwashing”. There is preferably a need to take a more in-depth approach to redesign business models, customer experiences and channels, organisational capabilities and processes – using these technologies – with a focus on interaction, interconnection, nimbleness and agility.
To better support and enable such wholesale change, the fashion industry needs to expand its reach to other sectors and create synergetic macro-networks — new forms of collaboration that transcend traditional borders, working across industries to forge new and meaningful partnerships. For instance, large global organizations collaborating with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, as promoted in the Fashion Innovation Award held on April 2nd, 2019 during the Fashion Innovation Week, to boost innovation, create new value and find purpose: we shouldn’t forget that in an increasingly crowded marketplace, sustainability is a powerful tool to remain relevant and authentic.
To achieve a truly green economy requires making fundamental changes to our ways of working, designing, producing and consuming. Those of us in the industry who perceive this need must act now and to make sure the world of fashion (and above all, of FashionTech) is a leader in the field and doesn’t get left behind.