The fashion industry has reached its sustainability cliff edge. The unavoidable scrutiny it has experienced means there is nowhere left to hide. 3 in 5 customers take the environmental impact of purchase into account at checkout. Circular fashion, the system that encourages recycling, renting and sharing, is a possible solution for many brands. So how could it work and what should these businesses look at?
It’s worth adding some colour to the scale of the issue. With no one fashion company having more than 1% market share in a fantastically competitive environment, it is hard for a market leader to run with an idea that others then follow. Equally fragmented is the supply chain that supports it. From this we can comfortably say that it’s going to be near impossible for a single player to move the needle.
For any change to occur partnerships are essential. Brands, already under pressure from customers, should drive this circular thinking. The perceived wisdom so far is that members of the supply chain should fall like dominoes when the brand says, “Jump”. However, the reality is far removed. Retailers need to intelligently pick elements of their supply chains. Investing in data will allow them to select needle moving suppliers. Logistics, manufacturing and production companies would benefit hugely by becoming transparently compliant as other brands would flock to them in droves.
So, if you’re a fashion brand, what do you turn your focus to? Here are my suggestions:
· Invest in alternative materials and processes
· Audit production waste and encourage workers to take ownership of ambitious waste goals
· Take ownership of your logistics
· Make use of physical stores that may be experiencing reduced footfall as circularity hubs
· Invest in non-store collection points
· Explore rental options
· Impart timelessness as an essential element of all your designs
· Provide both care and repair tips
· Follow the data, invest in your numbers to start making smart decisions
Whilst this list is not exhaustive, what we will see are brands big and small taking action in a few areas. With the collective power of the industry moving in all directions, change has the potential to happen very fast. This change is no doubt a daunting prospect if you’re a large manufacturer or logistics provider, but the benefit to committing to it sooner rather than later could be highly beneficial in commanding new business. Which leaves the prospects for fashion in a positive position. There’s a safe landing at the bottom of that cliff, the industry just needs to build a ladder down.