Fast fashion
is dead, how will the industry survive?

As the fashion industry faces criticism for being a major player in the climate crisis, what efforts can be made by brands and designers to reduce their environmental impact?

Now that the dust has settled after another month of fashion shows, we can’t help but question the future of the industry. Highlighted by the recent global climate strikes, the elephant in the room has become impossible to ignore.

The cost of throwaway fashion

It only takes a quick google search to find a whole host of terrifying statistics: Polyester, the most popular fabric used in fashion, sheds microfibres when washed, contributing to the increasing levels of plastic in our seas. Pesticides used to protect cotton crops are toxic to humans and livestock, have been linked to cancer and are leading to resistant strains of weeds. The list goes on, and on…and on. It’s abundantly clear that fast fashion is having a devastating effect on the planet.

So, what efforts are being made to enforce change? In an industry that relies on trends and fast paced consumption, how can a solution be found before it’s too late?

The power of activism

Extinction Rebellion chose to take a disruptive approach. In what was without question one of the more dramatic displays at London Fashion Week, the ‘Funeral for Fashion Week’ held by the socio-political movement called for the cancellation of the bi-annual trade event. Clad in funeral gowns and veils, around 200 participants gathered around two coffins with the phrases ‘RIP LFW 1983-2019’ and ‘Our Future’ written across them. The group criticised the clothing industry for the detrimental ecological consequences of its actions and are continuing to campaign for drastic reform.

 

The good news? Designers and brands are listening, and commitments are being made to improve production processes and waste management. 

Quality over quantity

In participation with the Global Climate Strikes last week, Vivienne Westwood closed her London Headquarters and took her brand voice to the streets to join the movement.

In a recent interview with Paris Match she pledged to ‘cut collections in half’ to decrease logistics and use fewer raw materials to ‘create a company with a future’. She also referred to Greta Thunberg as an ‘Angel’ in the campaign against climate change and advised consumers to ‘buy less, choose well and last.’

 

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‘We know that our business activity—from lighting stores to dyeing shirts—is part of the problem. We work steadily to change our business practices and share what we’ve learned. But we recognize that this is not enough. We seek not only to do less harm, but more good.’

Patagonia Mission Statement

Avoid landfill: Repair, reuse and recycle

Another brand with sustainability and environmental responsibility at the forefront of their agenda is Patagonia. The outdoor activewear brand take pride in their efforts to cut down on consumption, stating that they are ‘in business to save our planet’. Renowned for their efforts to design and create products from sustainable materials in the most low-impact ways possible they also have a scheme called wornwear.com for keeping ‘gear in play’. The platform encourages customers to ‘put used to use’ giving them a plethora of options from useful tips on how to fix your own items to information on trading in used items in exchange for store credit.

 

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Engage the younger generation

What started life as a social network for readers of PIG magazine in 2011, Depop has quickly evolved into one of the most successful shopping apps on the planet. With over 10 million users worldwide – 80% of which under 25-years old – the platform has become an antidote for throwaway fashion. 

Described as a cooler, trendier version of Ebay, it encourages a younger generation of consumers to embrace secondhand shopping whilst making a bit of money on the side.  When asked by Forbes why the app had become so popular with Gen Z shoppers Maria Raga, CEO of Depop said ‘they want to feel unique, to shop with (and from) friends, and to build their own green businesses without losing a drop of street cred.’  

Gone are the days when showing up to school in your cousins hand-me-downs sparked shame and ridicule. Now, wearing second hand is praised, and quite rightly so. If the Friday for Future marches are anything to go by, young people are embracing this notion and changing the conversations around fashion.

But how does this translate to the luxury sector?

The rental revolution

A fresh crop of businesses are rising with a focus on renting rather than buying. HURR Collective is the UK’s first peer-to-peer wardrobe rental service, encouraging members to ‘own experience, borrow the outfit’. Paving the way for a more sustainable future, the online platform allows members to list their wardrobes and lend or rent their items in exchange for a fraction of the retail price. 

 

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Whilst reducing, reusing, recycling and renting are all valid endeavors in the journey towards a cleaner future, we question if there is a way to create yet produce zero waste?

Virtual fashion and analogue investments

Enter Carlings, the Norweigian multi brand-chain taking their pledge to minimize the negative environmental impact of fashion to the next level. In response to reports of consumers buying one-off items soley for Instagram posts, the brand launched the ‘Neo-ex’ all-digital collection. 

How does it work? For just £15 a pop customers purchase their desired item, send a photo of themselves to the Carlings team and wait whilst 3D designers use photogrammetry to digitally fit the garment to the image. The result = 100% zero environmental impact.

The brand enlisted the help of influencers to promote the collection and sold out within a week. In an interview with Vogue Business, Matthew Drinkwater, the head of the Fashion Innovation Agency at London College of Fashion commented “People think that this is not a real thing, but the numbers are off the charts. Fashion hasn’t begun to tap into that. What might a Louis Vuitton or Off-White digital piece of clothing be like?”

If the gaming industry is anything to go by – in 2018 revenue from video gaming reached a new peak of $43.8 billion – people are clearly willing to part with their pennies for analogue items.

A digital fashion future?

Earlier this year we saw the world’s first digital couture outfit sold at auction. Designed by The Fabricant, the dutch fashion house specialising in photo-real 3D design and photogrammetry, the winning bid was $9,500. The brand claim to be ‘uploading humans to the next level of existence’ by creating collections that are ‘Always digital, never physical.’ and recently started to share their files with other designers to teach and encourage other them to follow suit.

So how far will the marriage of tech and fashion take us? With sales of technically un-wearable items and collaborations between brands and digital models such as Lil Miqeula on the rise, is the future really online? Could augmented reality actually replace the physical and save us? Only time will tell…

 

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Hungry for more? Take a look at our other articles, technical musings and photogrammetry experiments over on the Lens.