Jackie Thompson 

As the fashion industry currently enjoys a renewed wave of sustainability initiatives, the spotlight is back on the waste being generated by the industry. Globally, the fashion industry produces 92 million tonnes of waste annually – costing the economy over $400 billion every year. In fact, in the last 15 years, the industry has not only doubled production but has also come to see consumers getting rid of 60 percent of their clothing within the first year. As more manufacturers, consumers, and eco-friendly groups recognize the validity of the increasing issue, sustainability in the fashion industry has become a hot topic.  More people are looking towards brands to deliver on waste-reducing initiatives- and in some cases, they are.

The Issue Of Reusing Discarded Textiles For Fashion Retailers

Many articles and calls have been made for consumers to consider upcycling their closets to reduce their fashion waste each year. However, at the same time, explosive reports have also been released on the increasing waste the fashion industry is generating from offcuts. A report by Pulse of The Fashion Industry showed that the fashion industry is responsible for 4 percent of the world’s waste each year. A significant percentage of that is attributed to off-cuts and discarded material waste.

However, in recent years there has been a steady increase in fashion brands designing out of waste. For instance, Suave and Doodlage use leftover material from large manufacturers. The company also sources unused materials from fellow manufacturers, tackling the manufacturing and design waste issue in the fashion industry.  Reformation is also making at least 15 percent of its products from old or leftover fabrics.

 The Shift To Sustainable And Recycled Sourcing

Another notable way to tackle the mounting waste in the fashion industry is to encourage the shift to more sustainable sourcing. Sustainable sourcing has been repeatedly hailed as Fashion’s new must-have in recent reports and has been linked to not only positive economic and ecology results but also improved tourism outcomes. For instance, more recently we have seen more companies focus on sustainability in fashion basics like streetwear. By providing consumers with an insight into how the fashion industry supports deprived communities and children, they are also shedding light on budding economies like Indonesia and India where fair wages and exploited labor were an issue. One brand that has been gaining attention in this area has been Reformation, who have become known for their sustainable ethos. Its recycling program, RefRecycling, allows customers to recycle their old clothing and follow its journey in the recycling process.  Larger brands like Nike, have also introduced a Reuse A Shoe program.

 Breaking The Taboo On Second-Hand and Vintage Buying In The Fashion Industry

In the past decade, more second-hand and thrift fashion websites have sprung up. Websites like Rent The Runway, Vestiaire Collective, and Rebelle have introduced new ways for consumers to access designer-level fashion, at a fraction of the cost- while giving used clothing a second lease on life. However, many consumers remain unaware or dubious of them. The concept of second-hand shopping has been popular in recent years, particularly with millennials. However, its popularity has been limited to those aged 17 to 24 (Generation Z) or millennials. Interestingly, a report from First Insight showed that 62 percent of Generation Z prefer to buy from sustainable brands. With the introduction of mobile platforms like Depop, it is expected that secondhand fashion will become more accessible in the future.

One thing is for certain: the issue of dealing with fashion waste is quickly becoming a pressing issue. While there is a lot that consumers can do to reduce their habits of tossing out clothing and fast fashion mindset, the change needed will take significant support from the brands in the industry. So far, it seems to be off to a good start with much more to come.

Photo by Thom Bradley on Unsplash