Why Sustainable Fashion Has To Be A Global Conversation - by Tamara Cincik
Fashion Roundtable submitted a response to the Parliamentary Inquiry on the Sustainability of the fashion industry, for the Environmental Audit Committee chaired by Mary Creagh MP. This “investigates the social and environmental impact of disposable ‘fast fashion’ and the wider clothing industry. The inquiry examines the carbon, resource use and water footprint of clothing throughout its lifecycle. It will look at how clothes can be recycled, and waste and pollution reduced.”
Our response collated by our team of experts, was keen to raise key issues, such as changing consumer habits, delocalised production and ever-faster fashion cycles.
3 key points from our submission are:
1) Delocalised production in developed nations is unsustainable in the long-term. It “has become a commonplace choice due to these new consumer demands because of the low labour cost and less exacting/rigorous regulation and standards surrounding the social and environmental requirements in developing nations. The increased scale in production coupled with the decrease in the price of apparel and faster trend cycles (due to the digitalisation of fashion and social media) has created a cycle which in the future will not be sustainable neither via the human cost nor the environmental cost.”
2) Recycling is not always the fix-all fashion solution. Clothes from the West are now saturating Third World markets where they are putting domicile artisans and tailors out of business and creating a quasi-Colonial model of aid and business, with our charity shop excess clothes being sold to those in the Third World. “Most consumers assume that by donating their second-hand clothes to charities, that clothes are being recycled or given to genuinely less fortunate people. However, there are too many second-hand clothes being donated. Not only does the availability of such a great quantity of second-hand clothes create unemployment within the garment sector of developing countries, but it also negatively impacts economic growth and destroys the designs inspired by local cultures and traditions. Upcycling may be a better alternative to donating, because through upcycling the garment is turned into something new. Producing garments mostly means using finite resources – dirty energy – the number one polluter. Hence, every step taken to reduce the demand for cheap clothes and fashion waste is a step towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Raising awareness among consumers is paramount to help the apparel sector accelerate its environmental and social impact reduction alongside pushing the large fashion corps to take accountability and change their supply chain processes alongside investing in research into new technologies and textile sciences.”
3) The West is no longer the dominating force in fashion. If we are to understand that sustainabilty in fashion across the supply chainis a global conversation, then we need an integrated worldwide solution. “2017 signals the end of an era. The West will no longer be the global stronghold for fashion sales. In 2018, an important tipping point will be reached when, for the first time, more than half of apparel and footwear sales will originate outside of Europe and North America, as the main sources of growth are emerging market countries across Asia-Pacific, Latin America and other regions. This outlook varies across value segments too. The ongoing polarisation of the industry with consumers trading up or down from mid-market price points continues to create headwinds for mid-priced fashion players while those operating in the luxury, value and discount segments further pick up speed. What is new is that the absolute luxury segment is accelerating alongside affordable luxury. We expect to see several themes emerge as defining features of 2018, from Asian fashion players asserting their power on the global stage to personalisation at scale and cutting- edge deployment of artificial intelligence.”