How Slow Fashion Is Fast-Tracking Sustainability
T-shirt made of 100% and hundred percent organic materials. Customer with responsible and nature and eco friendly values.
Today’s consumers, especially us millennials, are increasingly concerned and influenced by companies’ records and initiatives around sustainability. Whether it is because they follow #sinnfluencers on social media or because of the growing understanding that climate change is a real threat to human in the near future, this has manifested itself in the fashion industry with a new trend towards 'slow fashion'.
Now more than ever, consumers are curious about where their clothes were made and under what conditions. The slow fashion movement promises to be the opposite of the fast fashion trend (inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends) by delivering sustainably procured and produced clothing to mindful consumers. Instead of never-ending sale offerings due to rapidly changing trends, slow fashion items are designed to be sustainable, functional, durable and stylish.
A sustainable fashion product is made in an environmental and social friendly manner along the supply chain. From the initial design of sustainable products using ethically sourced raw material, production through sustainable manufacturing processes, and delivered through green distribution, and retailing channels.
First, as already explained in another blog of mine “Sustainable Design: The Key To Unlocking A Sustainable Future”, design determines the ecological footprint of the whole product lifecycle. Fashion designers can therefore help to significantly reduce the environmental impact of products by making sure that they change the way they design their clothes, by taking into account the environmental impact early in the product design.
Eco-material production is the fundamental part in a sustainable fashion supply chain. Cotton, as a renewable resource, is the main material for apparel production. However, chemicals and pesticides are largely used in the traditional ways to grow cotton. Sustainable fashion products are often made by organic fabrics, which are produced using less water and harmful chemicals. Organic cotton therefore is grown without using pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, which could reduce the negative impact on the environment.
Apparel manufacturing often takes place in countries with low labor costs. However, in those countries, the awareness of environment and human rights are often less developed. Therefore, it is important to promote the importance of fair working conditions and environmental performance, especially when working with various suppliers all around the world.
Producing carbon emission is inevitable in distribution. However, by designing a more efficient transportation system, the amount of carbon emission in distribution can be minimized. For example, to engage with sustainable product design which can make container shipping less harmful to the environment.
Some retail brands have already launched clothing collection initiatives to promote sustainable concept in ethical consumers in retailing. Consumers can return old apparel products and in return, they can get a coupon for their next purchase. All collected used apparel and textiles are then optimally recycled according to their condition. Moreover, within an up-cycling process, some textiles and fabrics are reprocessed and used to create commercial products for example.
According to a Greenpeace survey conducted in 2015, every fifth garment is never worn. This makes a total of one billion unworn garments – if you include rarely worn items, you even get a total of two billion "wardrobe corpses". Many people then sort out clothes again within a year – after all they have to keep up with the trend, don’t they?!
In my opinion, this is mostly the result of fast fashion. If more clothing businesses follow the idea of slow fashion, and more people start reflecting their buying habits, we can make a big step toward a world run better.
Download the IDC report “Leveraging Your Intelligent Digital Supply Chain” to find out how an end-to-end digital supply chain – from design and planning to manufacturing, logistics, and operations – helps businesses to increase sustainability.