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Slow is Beautiful or a Patchwork Planet?

Slow is Beautiful or a Patchwork Planet?


Can the fashion industry lead the way to a more sustainable and equitable future by embracing the challenges of climate change, resource shortages and high energy costs.

The fashion industry is a product of the modern age. New technologies, global capitalism and factory systems, has given rise to the highly globalized industry we have today which generates over a trillion dollars a year. Our standard production model sees clothing often designed in one country, manufactured in another, and sold in a third. At its worst this has amounted to factories exploiting workers, fast throwaway fashion, a waste of resources, intensive water, energy and chemical use and the encouragement of unsustainable consumption. What we wear, and how it’s made has a huge impact on our society and environment. An Ethical Fashion Industry has the potential to make great environmental and social change.

Ciel Ethical FashionFuture Challenges

Resource shortages, climate change, demographic shifts, new technologies, and changes in trade barriers and the global economy are all challenges that will affect every aspect of the fashion industry from supply to manufacture. How will the industry react to shortages of cotton and other raw materials, shifting supply chains and new technological development. Will water shortages and high energy prices change the way people care for their clothes. And will the present niche markets of reuse and remanufacturing of material develop into a mainstream response to higher prices and resource scarcity. These are just a few questions that designers and manufacturers will need to ponder.

Fashion Futures 2025

Fashion Futures 2025 written by Forum for the Future and Levi Strauus, profiles four global scenarios for the fashion future. It calls upon the entrepreneurs and visionary brands to lead the way in creating a cultural and economic shift towards a more equitable society and global trading system. With such economic clout and influence on consumer purchasing, the fashion industry is ideally placed in promoting social and environmental justice and a shift in values towards sustainable consumption.

ethical-fashion-bibico_11Industry to lead the way

Sustainability needs to become mainstream with companies examining production process, seeding innovation for a future in a resource constrained world, and by investing in closed-loop manufacturing and higher social and welfare standards for workers. Consumer behaviour plays a major part in the sustainability of fashion, but how will it be possible to close the knowledge-action gap of global consumers unless an overhaul of ethics and production comes from within the industry itself.

This is where designers and manufactures are best placed to influence consumers and investors towards sustainable production and consumption, lobbying government and driving collective industry action. Some ethical fashion brands such as People Tree have already adopted these business models and the growing rise of Estethica at London Fashion week is testament to the growing awareness within the industry for fair-trade and ethical practices. Sustainable business practice is proven to increase profit margins and market share in a world where green business and corporate social responsible will follow the trend in becoming the norm.

Four global scenarios

bibico-ethical-fashion-maxi-dress IIThe Fashion Futures 2025 Report details four global scenarios as shown below. The full report provides industry recommendations for adaption and futuristic yet factual visions of clothes grown in vats, 3-D body scanners and waterless washing machines.

Will we be Slow is Beautiful or a Patchwork Planet. It will be up to the industry on which fashion world we will see in 2025.

Scenario1: Slow is Beautiful

A moralistic world of low-carbon, sustainable lifestyles and mindsets. Strict carbon regulation and sophisticated tracking and labelling mean that consumers across the world are more aware and concerned with the impacts of the clothing supply chain. The majority of consumers are willing to pay more for a smaller number of high-quality, sustainable clothing items. The fashion industry has had to work hard, both to decarbonise, but also to shift people’s perceptions of the industry, seen as inextricably linked with the rampant, frivolous consumption of the late 20th century. Although ‘living wages’ are now the norm for factory workers, a ‘grey economy’ of cheaper fashion with poor working conditions still exists.

Scenario 2: Community Couture

Junky StylingSelf-sufficient communities thrive in a world struggling to cope with the strain of growing populations and resource shortages. Very high costs of raw materials and disrupted supply chains have resulted in a dramatic fall in the production and sale of new clothing. In its place vibrant local networks of second-hand clothing have evolved: community bonds are strong and creative fashion solutions abound. That said many consumers still strongly desire ‘new’ clothes – now affordable only to the rich or on the black market. Clothing care is low-tech but efficient.

Scenario 3: Techno-Chic

This is a prosperous world which has benefitted from an early switch to a low-carbon economy and huge technological investment. Smart consumers are flourishing in this high-tech, open world of few trade barriers and fast-paced fashion fads. All clothing is designed for degrading, disassembly, re manufacturing and/or reuse, supported by ‘smart’ solutions for low-impact clothing care and advanced recycling networks. Man-made fabrics rule the fashion markets, providing personalised, high-tech, affordable options across the globe. Massive levels of automation and sharp declines in the use of labour create pockets of crippling unemployment across economies previously reliant on clothing manufacture and production.

Scenario 4: Patchwork Planet

Years of conflict, exacerbated by uneven economic recovery from recession and a shortage of strategic resources, have caused the global community to fragment, and there is deep suspicion between cultural blocs. This is a world of rapidly changing fashions – where styles are led by an economically and culturally powerful Asia. Supply chains regionalise to meet consumer demand for fast-changing, regional, patriotic fashion. The world is struggling to cope with mounting social tensions and environmental constraints. Many wonder how long this pace can last.

To read the full Forum For The Future Report HERE

Top Image: Bibico Ethical Fashion, Middle Image: Ciel Ethical Fashion, Bottom Image: Junky Styling.

EcoChic Magazine celebrates Ethical Fashion, Sustainable Design and Fairtrade Fashion Manufacture. It’s all win win!

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