In an age where we are able to sell a pair of jeans every minute, it’s fair to say that fashion is a big business. With an accumulated worldwide revenue of over $1.8 trillion AUD, it’s estimated that our 80 billion pieces of new clothing consumed each year will swiftly increase to over 100 million tonnes of apparel being purchased each year by 2030. 400% more than what we used to about 15 years ago. More the merrier…right?

The shift

Keep your hand on the sustainability pulse though. Fast fashion’s double-edged sword has been flying under the radar for some time. From agriculture and natural resources like cotton and petroleum based non-recyclables, to chemicals and manual labour, our industry’s weight on the natural world has risen second to the oil industry.

The good news however, detrimental activities like these are rising to the round table of fashion future’s discussions. Those days where beauty and style were the cornerstones of this industry, are fast becoming decentralised by more and more consumers considering where their clothes are coming from. ‘Who made my clothes?’ Does it feel authentic? Our natural feeling is wanting to look good, feel good and be empowered through what we wear. Also, check the materials. The more you know. The Good On You’s material guides are an excellent source for finding and trying eco-friendly materials. Who knows, you might just swap your cotton t-shirt for Tencel!

New-era consumers

What attracts you? When you invest in a piece of clothing, is it the timeless designs or craftspership or fabric quality? We’re walking towards a more sustainable runway with years past, where more and more consumers are choosing to buy from more sustainable brands, as it makes them feel good about their decisions. Humans. We’re complex creatures aren’t we? An increase in mindfulness in today’s hyper-connected world is the result. We have seen the slow food movement to plant-based diets being embraced, leading to a similar shift towards more organic brand identities and Fairtrade values adopted. From manufacturing to design, fashion has a huge opportunity to create change.

Image courtesy of WGSN

Designing for transparency

Think, how many hands do our clothes pass through before they touch ours? Transparency is about to be the new black, and one of the key indicators on how we define a brand as sustainable. Out of 10,000 surveyed customers worldwide, 78% said it was very important for companies to be transparent. As consumers, we don’t think too much about the ‘Made in…’ labels when we first buy. Little do we know, these labels are invisibly woven with the stories of individuals who have sewn and cut our clothes that hang in our wardrobes. What if you knew who made you clothes and how? Soon there will be nothing to hide.

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There are no limits to corporate secrets anymore. Look to see if a brand says anything at all. A ‘transparency pledge’ was developed in 2016 as a modest starting point to formalise company disclosure for industry good practices and sustainable credibility. Brands going transparent and following the thread include Nike, H&M Group, Patagonia and Levi’s. Targets like the ones below are just some of the things regularly measured:

Factory locations
Processing facilities
Supply chain ethics
Chemical use
Labour rights
Environmental and social practices

Remember to always look for the fine print though! Don’t be fooled by big claims and enlarged text. Do they encourage customers to ask questions? Or are they vague about their behind the scenes actions. Targets can be cheeky, making it easy to misinterpret action values. Especially when sometimes, targets are made larger than they actually are. So keep a close eye out for greenwashing the next time your browsing your favourite online store.

Designing for longevity

Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the most sustainable of all?

We do business with the companies we admire and trust. Progressively, we’re inevitably headed towards the streets of shared values. With the IoT world making visible the once invisible, businesses are able to hold a mirror up to their own practices for all to see. And visa versa. Our own actions contribute to how a piece of clothing is made long-lasting. “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last” is Vivienne Westwood’s mantra. Did you know, on average in one year we throw away 23kg of clothing? And wear only about 33% of our wardrobe. Chances are, you’ve probably got a stack of clothes piling up on your bedroom chair at this moment.

Or maybe, you won’t have to buy at all. New versus used. Which would you pick? As eco-conscious consumers, we need to ask where our dollars are leaving the biggest impact. For instance, GlamCorner are justifying longevity by adopting circular economy principles. Using e-commerce models to give clothing a second life by turning expensive dresses – often only worn once – into something that can be worn multiple times. Clothing rental is making the impossible possible, where one day we’ll be able to say ‘I’ll have this for 24 hours please’ without a second thought.

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Eco-initiatives can also be seen through brands like Ninety Percent, sharing 90% of its distributed profits between charitable and environmental causes, whilst retailers like H&M and Zara have transitioned to providing a garment collection scheme to repurpose their consumer’s old and unwanted clothing. A fun food for thought? In the near future, with trends like customisation unlocking advancements, we might be able to 3D print the clothes we love in the comforts of our own home soon! It’s one way in mitigating high consumption rates, lower total resource uses and possibly higher quality products lasting longer than just three months. Hello fashionable future!

Tick of approval

Respect, trust, openness and honesty. The keys to working in explicit co-creations between businesses and consumers. Led by a will to change. Rather than a linear model of take, make and waste, brands are beginning to shake up the industry. With platforms such as the Good On You app, you are able to make a difference every time you shop. Fashion isn’t going to go anywhere. It’s size and impact are just to great. So instead, get to know the quality brands you use regularly at every angle, and discover the next level of sustainable offerings!

Image: ‘Encouragement for Action’

*For more, read our blog on the sustainable revolution: a war on fashion waste.

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