In the past decade, the fashion industry has faced increasing criticism about its environmental footprint and has reacted both on a brand level and an industry wide scale.
It all started with procurement and production practices
Aided by social media, consumers have become more vocal regarding sustainable issues, making it vital for retailers to offer visibility over their procurement and production practices. Accordingly, many brands established their own sustainability commitments and strategies as well as industry-wide scale initiatives such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.
More recently, sustainability leaders in the fashion industry have begun moving beyond their initial reactive response towards proactively addressing environmental concerns at the beginning of the value chain, largely focusing on materials selection. Several brands have developed indices that help their teams choose materials based on environmental impacts.
It’s increasingly about how fashion is consumed too
Brands and retailers have been also increasingly careful not to equate sustainable design to simply materials, adopting a more holistic perspective that takes into account also how fashion is consumed. Designers have started to consider the environmental effects of caring for garments, and have created products, for example, with simple components in order to facilitate end-of-life disassembly and recycling. Many brands also started communication campaigns encouraging consumers to care for their clothes in low-impact ways.
Sustainability is no longer a niche concern
For a long time, “eco-fashion” has been sidelined as a niche option for shoppers with a conscience. Then, there has been a top-down effect of designer labels impacting high-street brands. Today, sustainability and eco-friendly credentials are no longer niche concerns.
Indeed, many retailers launched or are launching dedicated sustainable collections broadening existing ones and expanding the presence of sustainable products in core collections. Increasing numbers of young entrepreneurs also regard sustainable fashion as the foundation for their business, not a novelty selling point.
Even more pressing risks and opportunities lie ahead
While there has been a rise in sustainable fashion both on the supply and demand side, arguably however, this is not enough. The fashion industry is still the second largest polluter in the world, second only to the oil industry and is also one of the highest ranked industries for water waste.
Over the coming decade, global demand for clothing looks set to increase significantly, as millions of people in developing countries enter the middle class. While this presents a great opportunity for fashion companies, it is also a tremendous risk for companies that do not take into account the social and environmental risks of resource-intensive production processes. These risks will become even more pressing over time. As the millennials gain purchasing power, their expectations that businesses will operate in a sustainable manner could have a big influence on shopping trends.
Driving large scale change across the industry
Mitigating the sustainability impact of the fashion business will likely require action across the industry. But in order to create large scale change across this commercial industry, what is also vital is widespread demand for sustainable fashion.
But how do we, as industry partners, create widespread demand for sustainable fashion? Should brands accept responsibility for educating consumers or should non-governmental organizations and government legislation be the driving force?
Education vs. Persuasion
Many brands are moving towards sustainability but regard the education of consumers as a dangerous area. At the end of the day, fashion brands are not NGOs. However, what fashion brands may do is persuade. Brands need to find ways of persuading consumers to want sustainable clothes that look good.
“Looking good” is the key here as a product’s sustainable credentials alone are not enough to encourage shoppers. Sustainable collections must stand up to core fashion collections in terms of design, quality, fit and fashion credibility.
Environmentally sound without sacrificing style
Sustainable collections indeed often fail to reflect trendy designs and miss the mark on consumer wants and needs. The industry must find ways to bring seasonal denim trends to life in a sustainable way.
Some retailers have already woken up to this trend. As fast-fashion giants have grown sustainable ranges, they have become increasingly sophisticated in terms of design.
At Naveena, we incrementally increase our investment in R&D to introduce high quality smart fabrics, both for our customers and the environment. And we demonstrate how to produce a line that is environmentally sound but doesn’t sacrifice style or substantially increase manufacturing costs.
HORIZON is our latest innovation in this regard and it is the most sustainable denim fabric ever. A cutting-edge combination of eco-friendly dyeing and finishing, it reduces dramatically the effluent load while saving water, time and energy.
But not only.
Compared to similar product lines on the market, it also guarantees no back-staining and improved crocking. It is also laser friendly and is applicable for any fiber blend, giving designers the flexibility to create fashionable items as they desire.
Going forward, we’d like to see standalone sustainable collections become a thing of the past and a conscious mindset applied across all players to create a “sustainable industry”. And this will only happen if the industry reconciles consumer expectations and our planet’s needs, dismantling perceptions of unappealing, one-tone sustainable collections.
Established in Pakistan in 1989, Naveena Denim Mills is specialized in manufacturing premium yarn and denim fabrics, constantly seeking the ultimate union of form and function by creative engineering. Employing over 2000 people, the mill’s fully integrated state-of-the-art design, development and manufacturing facilities produce 18 million meters per year, offering flexible and exclusive services to partners in more than 40 countries.