EXPERT TIPS ON BUILDING A MORE SUSTAINABLE FASHION INDUSTRY
In our chats with some of the fashion industry’s sustainability professionals, we learned some valuable ideas about what apparel businesses can do to lower their environmental impact and together achieve a greener industry. Here’s a quick summary.
THE NEED TO BUILD A MORE SUSTAINABLE VALUE CHAIN
From designers and fit technology experts to sustainability consultants and fashion entrepreneurs, when it comes to driving forward environmental sustainability within the world of fashion, it’s clear that everyone has their own unique role to play across the entire value chain in order to make a difference. “We must create a balanced supply and demand chain that match its products to the consumer, and that way, we can prevent damaging consequences like overproduction and deadstock,” says Jessica Couch, Fit Technology Expert and Founder of Luxor + Finch Consulting. “Communication across the supply chain is key, that way we can gain a better understanding of what and why certain practices are not working,” adds Laura Gibson, Sustainable Fashion Consultant & Co-founder Lab 2030.
Therefore, to be able to create a sustainable product lifecycle from end-to-end, all departments must effectively collaborate throughout each stage of the process. “For upcoming or existing brands, it’s important to do an ecological 360 check on what impact on everything you do can not only have in the present, but five years from now…from the source of the garment through to manufacturing, distribution, and transportation all the way to the consumer,” shares Nina Gbor, Sustainable Fashion Educator. “We need to look at where the product ends up, and ultimately reverse engineer it,” adds Marije de Roos, Founder & CEO, Positive Fibers.
HOW FASHION PROFESSIONALS CAN CONTRIBUTE TO A GREENER FUTURE
All of us can contribute to reducing the apparel industry’s environmental impact in one way or another, whether it’s shifting to more ecological fabrics or simply speaking out and getting our ideas heard to raise awareness. For sustainability experts like Marije de Roos, the first step in transitioning to a more sustainable approach is the materials that you use, which goes hand in hand with technology further down the line.
“Sustainability can be embedded in the core of the business and every employee, no matter their role, can make an impact. We must adopt multifaceted solutions that allow us to overcome multiple challenges both environmentally and socially,” says Sonia Hylling, Sustainability & Circular Fashion Consultant. Another important aspect is ensuring that your organization is aware of the potential or existing damage that its product is causing to the environment, as Stephane Popescu, Sustainable Fashion Catalyst and Co-founder and CEO at COSE361 notes, “It is essential to measure the impact of your product in order to understand it and be able to improve your product’s environmental footprint. Every garment sold must be calculated and communicated across the entire ecosystem.”
Thus, as we look to the future it’s crucial that apparel organizations are willing to adopt more sustainable operations into their core strategy, as Christina Dean, Founder CEO The R Collective, Founder & Chair Redress suggests, “To best prepare for a more sustainable industry, it’s time to wake up to the need for change and keep up with where the industry needs to go. We all need to change our mindset in order to make a difference and start to think about how to increase fabric utilization and improve technical processes.” In fact, being willing to adopt new strategies and step out of our comfort zone is fundamental to driving change. “Instead of leaving your current role, make the changes from where you are, partner with others to divert waste. For example, if you’re a patternmaker shift to 3D software, or if you’re in merchandising switch to virtual showrooms. There are endless alternatives that can be explored,” adds Libby Fearnley, Fashion Industry Transformation Advocate.