Some might say that a relationship between fashion and sustainability is nothing but a paradox, especially when the former is the World’s second largest polluter and has repeatedly been accused of unethical behaviour. Considering that the global population is estimated to reach 9.8bn by 2050, we can expect the total apparel consumption to grow from 62m tonnes to 102m tonnes in the next 12 years- an equivalent of over 500 billion T-shirts, making the threat of climate change look more real than ever.
Plastics: a controversial story
Whether used as a carrying tool or a fabric to cover our bodies, fashion’s battle on sustainability reaches its peak when plastic comes in. Despite the 5p charge that was added to plastic shopping bags in 2015, which resulted in an 80% drop in the amount of plastic bags purchased in England, new creative directions proposed by high-end designers for 2018 offer plastic a central role in their collections. Fashion houses, such as Chanel or Céline sent thick vinyl totes, hairbands and shoes down the runway under the ‘high fashion’ mantra as a manifesto against the lack of transparency in the industry.
Whether highlighting the need for transparency within the land of fashion or not, the use of plastic is still one of the leading causes of Global warming. As a result, an increasing amount of brands acknowledged that the only way to stand out in the industry is by offering customers real motives to purchase items that inspire them and that will also help them improve their lifestyle.
A study conducted in 2015 pointed out that over 9 million tonnes of plastic waste is wiped from the land to the oceans every year, creating a gigantic patch of chemicals and litter that destroys both the aquatic and humans’ environment. To this extent, Adidas set up a partnership with Parley to reuse the massive amounts of plastic that could have otherwise ended up in the oceans. Adidas Ultra Boost x Parley shoes took inspiration from the oceans’ mood swings and come in shades of grey and dark blue.
Image credit: Adidas
Reebok and DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products produced a pair of shoes made of cotton and corn. The duo has developed a ‘pure, petroleum-free 100 percent USDA certified bio-based product’ extracted from field corn. The sustainability of this initiative goes from the product itself to the 100% recycled paper box customers have them delivered in.
Image credit: Reebok
Will the online environment get a sustainable update?
Over 1.79 billion customers bought items online in 2018 and the figures are estimated to rise to over 2 billion in 2021. People fail to realise that their spending power is greater than their recycling solutions, as over 235 million fashion items have unnecessarily ended up in landfill. The Rag Bag initiative proposed by the Swedish fashion label Uniforms for the Dedicated comes in to fix just that, as bags can easily be turned inside out after an old item was placed inside them. Made of biodegradable materials and prepared with seal-strip and pre-paid postage, it’s a simple way to go from just talking about recycling to actually doing it. As the agency behind this bag puts it, ‘the product is not complex, but it solves a complex problem’.
Image credit: NORD DDB
Storing clothes in a Cloud
Not only will a sustainable mind-set improve our relationship with clothes, but what technology has in store will reshape the future of fashion as we know it today. From walk-in wardrobes equipped with automatic clothing rails and touchscreen mirrors for users to browse through their clothing, to AI-powered home appliances able to remove all the bacteria from apparel, time spent wondering what to wear will be changed beyond recognition.
Image credit: Digital Trends
According to Jessica Graves (founder of Sefleuria) ‘consuming digitally will be much more sustainable’ and the industry needs to reinvent itself in a digital format. Thanks to revolutionary concepts proposed by researchers and designers, this idea might not be as far off in the future as it seems. The augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) goggles imagined by PDF Haus students for the luxury fashion brand Givenchy aim to give wearable technology a stylish twist and allow customers to browse through their shopping list and digitally visualise the products before making the final purchase.
Image credit: The Future Laboratory
Graves added ‘imagine what your pre-orders will look like if you have a very hyper-realistic image of someone wearing a garment that you haven’t even started prototyping. Suddenly we could get pre- orders and start testing demand without moving into production. This will make design so much more accessible.’
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