How Can Fashion Withstand The Circular Economy?

As industry leaders have an anonymous and honest conversation about the sustainability of fashion, other reports are highlighting the news that millennials and GenZ’ers prefer the fashion industry to be made in a more ethical way. However, these generations also can’t get enough of fast-fashion brands such as Boohoo and Missguided. For many, price and speed can often be a winning factor over conscience.

At today’s current pace, the textiles economy is expected to release over 20 million tonnes of plastic microfibers into the ocean by the year 2050. Just using less is not a viable option, as it just buys you a slightly longer time period. The fashion industry is at crisis level currently and need to change things.

So, where does this leave fashion? Business leaders from some of the biggest luxury fashion conglomerates joined forces to discuss fashion’s late entrance into the circular economy. Research has shown that progress towards such systems is possible without too much of a change or shift in current consumer behaviours. New business models which are based on recycled or reusable materials can, and do, pay off in the long term by reducing the cost of productions. Several points emerged from the key discussions:

Don’t Count On Consumers To Lead Change

The industry is still a service for consumers, many of whom value quality, price and design more than ethical considerations. The industry cannot take direction from consumers and wait for them to shift their purchasing habits.

Consumers Are Confused About Sustainability

Everyone in the fashion industry, including the media, has a vital role to play in better educating consumers. If consumers begin to understand the difference a few dollars more can make to sustainable farmers, then that will begin to change their approach. Some consumers don’t truly know what it means when they are purchasing cheap fashion pieces, and education is the way forward.

Not All Consumers Can Afford to Be Conscious

Should caring about sustainable fashion only be something that the wealthy can afford? Most ethically sustainable fashion products are, typically, more expensive than mass market collections, which are more feasible for shoppers with a tighter budget. Whilst many argue that sustainability, from hybrid cars to organic food, is a luxury only reserved for the wealthy, others argue that those in the middle classes are better at reducing and reusing things in a more effective way.

Knowing Where To Start

For those who feel isolated in finding a way to tackle their own sustainability, knowing where to start can be difficult. Businesses especially may find it challenging to find a way to become more sustainable without endangering their business. For consumers, looking at each aspect of their wardrobe and their clothing collections, from designer lingerie to womens sleepwear, will enable them to see where they can begin to make more conscious changes. For businesses, even small steps, such as reducing packaging or recycling hangers, is a step in the right direction.