uk edition

Sustainable fashionSustainability adds value to the fashion industry.

The fashion industry sells 80 billion garments annually, 400 per cent more than two decades ago.

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Fashion designers live immersed in a frenetic and constant race to create the next collection for the upcoming season, but in the process they forget the importance of the sustainability of materials.

Frederic Godart, luxury specialist and Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the Business School and Research Centre Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires (INSEAD) based in Fontainebleau (Paris), ensures that the fashion world is moving at a vertiginous speed, compromising the sustainability of the attires created.

“The concept of ‘luxury fashion’ is a contradiction in itself, and there is a great deal of confusion among those who have tried to reflect on its meaning. While “luxury” is often considered timeless, “fashion” is by definition ephemeral,” says the expert.

When consumers buy a luxury product like a watch or jewellery, consumers can use them for many years, or even preserve them during their lifetime, to later be handed down to future generations. However, a fashion product lives for one season whilst it’s still hot out of the oven and desired, and a luxury fashion piece often expires even faster than other products in the fashion industry.

“This unbridled industry could be losing strength as it faces ethical and environmental concerns,” says Godart, adding: “I maintain that luxury fashion can and should be sustainable if it wants to remain in vogue and pacify its critics, although a change in the status quo would present serious challenges.”

Frederic Godart proposes firstly the introduction of the concept “slow fashion”; secondly, that the materials have less impact on the environment; and thirdly that the sector be regulated by the state or the industry itself.

The newly released documentary The True Cost, directed by Andrew Morgan alerts on the situation in the textile sector, noting that the former fashion industry has little or nothing to do with how it finds itself currently in the era of globalization. In 2015, four times more clothes are bought compared to twenty years ago; with 80 billion clothing articles purchased every year.

The documentary shows how buying $20 jeans and T-shirts for no more than $5 is seen as unethical, because it encourages overproduction of cheap goods that pollute the environment during their production process and beyond.

The True Cost warns that we were sold on globalization with the promise that it would be beneficial for everyone, consumers in developed countries would be able to purchase cheaper products and the people who manufactured them would have the opportunity to overcome poverty, a win-win in the eyes of many.

More than a few experts say that the current business model in the sector is absolutely untenable. The French luxury group Kering is also working on achieving an impressive set of sustainability objectives in all its brands by 2016. Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney are both successful designers who have shown great interest in adopting sustainable procedures.

Consumers would be willing to pay higher prices for sustainable clothing if manufacturers were able to communicate what measures are being taken to use more environmentally friendly materials. In order to break the current mentality, where unsustainable practices are acceptable to some producers and consumers, the underlying message should be that “sustainability adds value”.

The turning point has not yet been reached, but there are encouraging signs that more and more brands are looking to put a green label on their designs.

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