Sustainable Fashion Never Goes Out of Style


Community Couture [Scenario 2]
1.   The world is… struggling to cope with the impacts of climate change and resource shortages but community bonds are strong – many strive for self-sufficiency.
2.   Fashion is… expensive new or cheap and second-hand… very high costs of raw materials and disrupted supply chains have resulted in a dramatic fall in the production and sale of new clothing.
3.   The fabrics we wear are… second-hand, ‘pre-loved’ clothing… community-grown hemp… only the rich can afford ‘certified new’ clothes made from expensive synthetics or virgin raw materials.
4.  We get our clothes… at vibrant second-hand markets with tailors and stylists on hand, in retail stores with extra security, on the black market or from clothing libraries.
5.   Clothes are made… at home or in community-run recycling centers linked to local, hyper-efficient factories.
6.   We care for clothes… using community laundries… one cup of water washing machines… ‘make do and mend’ is taught in schools.
7.   When we have finished with clothes… we sell them back for reuse to boost our incomes.
8.    The industry is sustainable through… second-hand clothing becoming a valuable resource… nothing is disposed of.
9.   Successful fashion businesses are… part of the local community: providing energy supply, education and even food to employees.

Source: Fashion Futures  [report published February 2010]

This is 1 of 4 provocative scenarios developed by the Fashion Futures project outlining different ways in which our resource-constrained world will have an impact on the entire fashion supply chain and its consumer.  Although completed in 2010, this 61 page Fashion Futures report continues to be a timely document for the global fashion industry.  In partnership with Levi Strauss & Co, the report was designed to help the fashion community understand the sustainability challenges ahead, prepare for the future, and help shape a positive outcome.

From Fashioning Sustainability, key issues that need addressing in the clothing supply chain:
  1. Fashion consumption – the increasing
    number of fashion items that we buy and
    then dispose of.
  2. The intensity of cotton production requiring
    lots of energy, water and pesticides.
  3. Working conditions across the supply chain
    from cotton production to sweatshops.
  4. Energy consumed when we are washing
    our clothes contributes to climate change.
  5. Chemicals in the working environment can
    be toxic and damage workers’ health and
    the local environment.
  6. Unsustainable man-made fibers can take
    longer to degrade in landfill sites.
  7. Fashion miles that burn carbon as fabric and
    clothing are transported around the world.
  8. Animal welfare – ensuring that good
    standards are upheld during leather and
    wool production, and avoiding fur.

Source: Fashioning Sustainability

John Anderson, Chief Executive Levis Strauss & Co., expresses this message from the Forward, Fashion Futures report:  “The future holds many challenges for the global fashion industry. Resource shortages, climate change, demographic change, new technologies, and seismic shifts in the global economy will affect our businesses, our customers and our world in ways we find hard to anticipate, let alone prepare for.  All areas of this vibrant industry in every region will be affected, from suppliers of raw materials, designers and manufacturers, right through to big brands and niche retail outlets, and these profound changes will call into question the business models we’re all familiar with”.

The fashion industry is already up for the challenge and is steering the direction. Consumers will always need clothes and want to express themselves in what they wear. The industry has proven its adaptability to change by improving labor standards with the adoption of codes of conduct.  Levi Strauss & Co. [LS & Co] is, without question, a pioneering leader. Over 2 decades ago, they were the first company to state their commitment to better manufacturing standards through the Terms of Engagement [TOE].  I, having worked for LS & Co during this time and being part of their global leadership, their company culture, values, and vision, know that they ‘walk the talk’ in their commitment to a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable future.

For those readers who are entrenched in the fashion industry or just starting out, embrace a long-term vision on sustainability, rethink your business model that will help lead consumers in this direction, and mostly seize the opportunity that these challenges present.

Read the report and use it as a tool to inspire, reshape your thinking, and develop fashion that will thrive in a sustainable future.

Fashion Futures [PDF] report: Fashion Futures_2025_FINAL_SML

Read more on sustainable fashion at sustainable EDGE.





Rhonda P. Hill

Founder, Publishing Editor

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