Welcome to our monthly reading list on themes relevant to TCBL. We’ve spotted the best general and academic articles about the sustainable fashion industry. This month highlights vegan trends, Australian sustainable fashion events and eco-conscious consumers’ most popular Google searches.
A Vegan-friendly 2019: trend overview
Different industries, same tendency: big brands have been launching vegan lines one after the other. Read this overview on vegan events and products and, based on last year’s luxury bestseller piece, check out a selection of more than a dozen vegan brands for both men’s and women’s sneakers here.
Veganism as a lifestyle choice is now more popular than ever. Because of this phenomenon, a group of customers that a few years ago was a niche, today has risen to form a proper target group with specific product needs. Vegan events are organised worldwide, related not only to food, but also to cosmetics and, of course, to fashion. The first vegan fashion week was held in Los Angeles between 1-4 February and featured innovative faux leather made of materials like pineapple and apples. According to this annual report from the Global Wellness Institute, between 2015 and 2017, the wellness industry grew by 12.8%, and further growth is projected through 2022. What are you doing to be vegan-friendly in 2019?
UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion
On March 15, 2019, The UN Environment Assembly launched the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion which seeks to halt the environmentally and socially destructive practices of fashion, and instead harness the industry as a driver for improving the world’s ecosystems. Amongst their tasks: identifying the obstacles that make sustainable collaboration difficult. The members of the alliance are from different sectors of the fashion industry: Connect4Climate – World Bank Group, International Labour Organization (ILO), ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI), UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), UN Environment (UNEP), UN Global Compact and the United Nations Office For Partnerships (UNOP). For more information see https://unfashionalliance.org/
March events in Australia for a sustainable future of fashion
On the other side of the world, Australia looks to the sustainable future of fashion. Virgin Australia’s Melbourne Fashion Festival (VAMFF) was held March 1-10 and placed a strong focus on sustainability with the festival itself being eco-friendly. This year featured a panel discussion on ethical fashion, runway shows and an upcycling lab called Fast Fashion, created by multi-disciplinary artists Tenfingerz and Sebastian Berto. Artists and audiences alike were challenged to upcycle outfits from over a tonne of op shop waste and then showcase their creations on a runway entitled “Dye or Die.” (See main photo). A fun concept that could be replicated at local TCBL events.
The Second edition of Australian Circular Fashion Conference was then held on 21-22 March: Australia’s leading sustainability-focused fashion business event hosted speakers from around the world. Organisers arranged the program to pay special attention to waste-reduction strategies and educate attendees on the key pillars of a circular economy. CEO of the Australian Circular Fashion Conference, Camille Reed, believes that a circular economy is a huge opportunity for the industry. Find out more here.
Just Google it
Since 2018, there has been a 66% increase in searches for sustainable fashion, which included sustainability-related keywords like “ethical brands” and “vegan fashion,” according to global fashion search platform Lyst’s latest report.
Stella McCartney sneakers ranked first compared to all other sustainable searches. Footwear and denim are proving to be the two most popular entry points into sustainable fashion for both consumers and brands. According to Lyst, by 2020 10% of all fashion purchases on Lyst will be made with sustainability in mind.
March 4th marks the launch of a new collection of Levi’s developed in partnership with Outerknown, made of a new denim fabric composition that blends cotton and hemp. Although it has no clear regulations yet, the hemp industry is predicted to achieve significant growth by 2020, according to this article in Forbes. Levi Strauss & Co. campaigns aim to position the brand as a forward-looking, sustainability-conscious denim company by beginning some new practices: introducing a water-saving finishing process, offering recycling services for old clothes in all US stores, launching a range of jeans made from old fishing nets and encouraging customers to wash their jeans less often. The strong ethical and environmental beliefs of Outerknown, the design project and web shop founded by 11-time World Surf League Champion, Kelly Slater, and acclaimed designer John Moore, led the two companies to find a shared mission.
Can Secondhand take over Fast Fashion by 2018?
It’s time to take action: according to this 2019 Resale Report, 64% of women bought or are now willing to buy second-hand products. A few short years ago, this number was just 45%. Second-hand fashion is projected to grow to nearly 1.5x the size of fast fashion by 2028. Young consumers, Millennials and GenZ are the most interested in ethical, environment-friendly values.
Reduced prices and a rise in circular economies have made second-hand shopping a very attractive alternative to high-priced luxury brands. As the line between new and used apparel blurs for consumers, traditional retailers are starting to embrace second-hand selling. The resale customer is no longer somebody else’s customer, they are everybody’s customer.
Inditex invests (also) on sustainability
Spanish fast-fashion colossus Inditex signed an agreement on 19 March with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to renew an existing partnership program between the two institutes. Inditex is set to contribute more than $4 million to multi-year research projects. One of the four main areas of investment is the MIT-Spain Inditex Sustainability Seed Fund. Endowed with a $450,000 contribution over three years, the fund is tasked with financing research projects for sustainable textile innovations like fibre recycling. In turn, Inditex Materials Science and Engineering Fellowship Fund will receive $1 million to promote research in the areas of sustainability, logistics, and supply chain management.
Polartec receives award
Textile manufacturer Polartec receives the 2019 Editors’ Choice Award from Backpacker Magazine thanks to their pioneering method to encapsulate lofted fibres in a multilayer, continuous-yarn fabric construction. The result, Polartec® Power Air™, is the first fabric technology engineered to reduce the high pollution levels emitted by fibre shedding. This manufacturing technique is just one effort among other sustainability-oriented developments. In January, the company announced an Eco-Engineering™ initiative that aims to use recycled and biodegradable materials. Since then, they have been working together with Unifi, one of the world’s leading innovators in manufacturing synthetic and recycled performance fibres and Intrinsic Advanced Materials, to develop sustainable solutions for textiles.
Circular economy beyond fashion
How does a circular economy work in other industries? Insights into technology and food manufacturing projects can provide ideas for eco-friendly practises in the fashion industry. For example, the company Circular Computing focuses on reintegrating used parts into IT systems. Montreal firm Lufa Farms established the world’s first commercial rooftop greenhouse in 2011. The result: reducing building energy demands by maintaining a cooling effect in summer and an insulating effect in winter.
Fashion as art and culture
“Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” an exhibit displayed between 14 March and 2 August 2015 at the Victoria & Albert Museum, was the most visited exhibition the museum ever hosted, attracting almost half a million visitors. It also had a record-breaking budget of £3 million. Ongoing exhibition “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” has recently been extended until 1 September 2019, and the online tickets are already sold out. As observed by a Forbes article, the popularity of fashion exhibitions enforces relationships and collaborations between ateliers and museums, underlining a cultural rather than industrial role of fashion.
One way of improving customer experience in retail involves contemporary art. This multi-brand store, 4510, is located in Hudson Yard, New York, a plaza and residential complex. Developed and designed by Kristen and Joe Cole of the Headington Company, 4510 makes use of art installations within its retail space. Re-prioritising human connections and tangible experiences are at the center of 2019 retail design.
Denim needs innovation
Denim manufacturers are embracing a wide range of creative innovations as they are faced with a growing number of challenges, including slow economic growth in key consumer markets for jeans. Because of these obstacles, they are in need of ingenious restructuring in order to add value to their product offerings and differentiate themselves from their competitors.
A number of such innovations were presented at the latest edition of Denim Première Vision—a key trade fair for the denim industry—which was held in London, UK, from December 5-6, 2018. At the fair, the use of decorative techniques was widespread, and included direct-to-garment (DTG) digital printing, embellishments and embroidery. Ground-breaking finishes and treatments were showcased, as was the incorporation of performance properties such as moisture management, stretch and temperature regulation. There was also a focus on environmental sustainability.
UNECE Traceability tool
The European Union has supported plans for a traceability tool to be applied to fashion brands and retailers. The tool, which is being developed by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and other partners, will provide insight into sustainability practices throughout the entire lifecycle of a clothing product. With the goal of encouraging a circular economy, the tool aims to increase the percentage of companies with traceability capacities, which currently sits at only 34%. After a 2018 conference discussing proposals to align the campaign with sustainable consumption and production, plans are underway to complete the project by 2021.
Drapers Sustainable Fashion event
Business-to-business magazine Drapers, founded in 1887, held a conference dedicated to sustainability in fashion, which took place in March of 2019. Brands like Adidas, Kering, Burberry, H&M, Farfetch, Marks & Spencer, The North Face and Eileen Fisher took part in power talks, panel discussions, showcases and networking at the sold-out event. Designer and activist Katharine Hamnett added her insight as a veteran of the sustainable fashion movement.