Image: No Man's Land (2012) - an art installation by Christian Boltanski
Fashion can only be truly sustainable by moving towards systems that are circular and actively regenerative. Nicoletta Stecca, director at Circular Economy Victoria and author of rén collective’s circular design guide, breaks down some of the key creative strategies to consider.
The current global health crisis has highlighted weaknesses and complexities in the fashion industry: a sector that was already facing unprecedented upheaval long before the world was forced to a lockdown.
Nobody could predict this sudden halt in production, the prolonged shut down of retail outlets or the significant drop in consumer spending. However, health crisis aside, it’s a few years now that various players in the industry have been calling for urgent change.
A lot of the factors behind this pressing need to reform the fashion system come from the ‘linear indicators’ we use to measure the success of a brand. These include the cost and quantity of raw materials, the volumes and speed of production, and the rapid pace of distribution and sales. Although we can’t disregard how the economy of scales has allowed brands to maximise production efficiency, giving low-income households the opportunity to purchase commodities such as clothes, the performance indicators linked to a ‘take-make-use-dispose’ economy have generated complex environmental and social issues that can no longer be ignored.
If you are already having these conversations, and you are trying to make conscious choices either as a designer or a consumer, you’ll know how easy it is to feel overwhelmed. The factors to take into account when creating or buying sustainable products are endless and ‘sustainable fashion’ is one of the most abused expressions of the last decade. The term refers to making and marketing products while considering both environmental and socio-economic aspects, in addition to minimising the negative impact of the product lifecycle at every stage. This is a daunting task and the results are extremely difficult to measure, especially for small brands with a limited budget, while as consumers it’s hard to recognise a genuine initiative from a well-concealed greenwashing campaign.
Yet as the word sustainability begins to lose its meaning in the context of fashion, designers are going one step further and shifting to systems that are not only sustainable, but fully circular and actively regenerative.