33 Sustainability efforts of the fashion industry in April and May 2020
By Simone Preuss
29 May 2020
While traditional brands and retailers are struggling to manage inventory, overstock and decreasing consumer spending, there are those that are thriving in the current corona crisis: sustainable designs and resale fashion for example. Brand collaborations are also still going strong. If you have missed our sustainability round-up in April (and we hope you did!) then this was not because of a dearth of material but on the contrary, we were so busy covering sustainable initiatives accelerated by Covid-19 that the month was over before we knew it. After all, there was Earth Day, Fashion Revolution Week, the seventh anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse and calls to rewire and slow down the fashion industry gaining momentum. Hence, here’s a longer list with 33 sustainability efforts announced in April and May 2020 alone.
Cooperations & Projects
Online fashion retailer Zalando, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and technology company Higg Co have announced their new collaboration, a new global sustainability standard for fashion brands and retailers, meant to accelerate sustainability industry wide. With SAC’s updated version of the Higg Brand & Retail Module (Higg BRM), Zalando - the first retailer to use this tool - will make sustainability assessment mandatory for brands selling on its platform.
The spread of the novel coronavirus is presenting fashion companies with unprecedented problems. Therefore, a movement is now forming among the sustainable players, one of whose founders is German fashion label Lanius, to slow down the fashion industry. Fashion brands and clothing retailers have to find solutions to jointly overcome sales slumps and how to continue after stores open again. In addition to calls for government support, voices are also growing louder that call for a departure from ever earlier seasonal patterns.
Using the hashtag #fairfashionsolidarity, the sustainable fashion industry is gathering and calling on labels, stores and consumers to work together. Since the end of March, the website fair-fashion-solidarity.de has been offering a manifesto for signatures and recommendations for action on how sustainable labels and retailers can get through the coronavirus crisis together. More than 250 European fair fashion brands and retailers have since joined, among them Fair Couture, The Good Apparel, Givn Berlin, Wunderwerk and green fashion fair Innatex.
Adidas and sustainable shoe brand Allbirds have announced their collaborative effort to create a sports performance shoe with the “lowest carbon footprint ever recorded”. According to a Quantis International study from 2018, the footwear industry annually emits 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Not only do the two companies want to accelerate solutions to solve this, but their partnership aims to innovate manufacturing and supply chain processes, as well as explore renewable material resources.
Seventeen new participants have joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign project. Intended to change the industry standard for jeans production to reduce waste and pollution, Jeans Redesign is composed of denim experts and companies committed to the cause. Banana Republic, Wrangler, Balzac Paris, Icicle, Organic Basics, Seventy + Mochi, Triarchy and Unspun have just signed onto the project, along with nine fabric mills, laundries and garment manufacturers. These new signatories join more than 50 other organizations that have already committed to the cause.
DJ Steve Aoki’s fashion brand Dim Mak has teamed up with Candiani denim to launch its first collaborative pair of jeans that have been crafted with sustainable fabrics and manufacturing methods. The Dim Mak x Candiani EC-01 is a limited edition pair of jeans completely made in Los Angeles, using sustainable techniques with fabric created by Candiani Denim Mill and hand-painted by Aoki and his Dim Mak artisans that have been designed to “showcase the future of denim”.
Zalora, Asia's online fashion brand part of the Global Fashion Group, has announced a partnership with pre-owned fashion platform, Vestiaire Collective to offer a sustainable fashion ecosystem in Asia. The partnership will allow Zalora’s Hong Kong customers to access over 5,000 of Vestiaire Collective’s authenticated pre-loved items across its women’s and men’s categories directly on Zalora’s website and apps.
Just in time for the 50th celebration of Earth Day and seen in a whole different light in view of the current coronavirus pandemic, non-profit Fashion Revolution has published the fifth edition of its Fashion Transparency Index that looks at 250 of the world’s biggest fashion brands and retailers, ranked according to how much they disclose about their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts. This year, H&M, C&A and Adidas/Reebok made it to the top three slots scoring 73, 70 and 69 percent, respectively, out of 250 possible points, followed by Esprit with 64 percent and Marks & Spencer and Patagonia at 60 percent each.
Fashion Brands & Retailers
Trendy, expensive, wasteful - this is how one could sum up the current worldwide sneaker boom. Unfortunately, the environment is often a secondary consideration when producing the most popular models, and at the end of their lives, sneakers end up in the hazardous waste bin. German sneaker brand Ethletic proves that fashion and environmental and social awareness do not have to be mutually exclusive: It manufactures vegan sneakers from Fairtrade-certified organic cotton and natural rubber (FSC) and donates 1 US dollar per pair sold to workers' welfare associations. Those who are particularly happy with their sneakers can also send a tip to the workers in Pakistan.
Burberry is launching a SS20 sustainable capsule collection, called ‘ReBurberry Edit’, and has started a global roll-out of new sustainability labeling to mark Earth Day. ReBurberry Edit comprises 26 styles crafted from sustainable materials used across the British luxury label’s entire product range. The edit features trench coats, parkas, capes and accessories created from Econyl - a recycled nylon made from regenerated fishing nets, fabric scraps and industrial plastic - as well as a range of eyewear crafted from bio-based acetate.
Spanish retailer Mango has released its first-ever sustainable capsule collection made from recycled fibres of garments collected through its ‘Second Chances’ project. The collection for both men and women features a pair of jeans and a denim jacket made of 20 percent recycled fibres and 80 percent sustainable cotton. Additionally, the process used for dyeing the fabrics saved 85 percent of water.
Canadian brand Canada Goose has outlined its goal to go carbon neutral by 2025 in its first-ever sustainability report. The Toronto-based brand, best known for its winter clothing, has released its sustainable impact strategy, which outlines the company’s commitment to sustainability and includes four of the seventeen United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The H&M Group has published an update on its sustainability efforts, announcing that it has almost reached its goal of using 100 percent recycled or sustainably sourced cotton. According to the Swedish retail giant’s 2019 Sustainability Performance Report, 97 percent of the group's cotton is now either recycled or “sustainably sourced.” It also said it will no longer source conventional cotton for its 2020 collections onwards. Of its overall materials used, 57 percent are now recycled or “sourced in a more sustainable way.” The group aims for this number to reach 100 percent by 2030.
The clothing resale market is thriving, despite the economic shift caused by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to popular resale platform ThredUp. Spokesperson Natalie Tomlin confirmed when speaking to FashionUnited that, “while resale isn’t immune to these downturns, we’ve seen before that when times are tough, resale tends to thrive.”
She explained that consumers are now turning to secondhand “as a responsible choice during a time when many are looking to stretch their dollars further,” which in some ways gives resale retailers an upper hand. As the economy takes a dip, value becomes a higher priority for the majority of shoppers. Tomlin also noted that resale platforms such as ThredUp have another advantage to traditional retailers: an independent supply chain.
Across the globe, stores are being affected by country-wide lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the situation presenting fashion stores with several challenges, including the dilemma of what to do with unsold stock. While the issue has been particularly significant in the fast fashion sector, small businesses have also been impacted, however, in a slightly different way. Retailers which sell inter-seasonal products should, it seems, be impacted less, as supply can be sold later in the season, explained the founder of French fashion brand Prêt Pour Partir, Xavier Aujard, to FashionUnited.
International e-commerce group, Global Fashion Group, has launched 100 percent recycled “delivery satchels” for its Australian multibrand e-tailer, The Iconic. The new packaging is made from 100 percent recycled plastic and feature’s Iconic’s updated white aesthetic. The new delivery satchels have been certified under the GECA’s (Good Environmental Choice Australia) Recycled Products Standard. The move marks the first major retailer in Australia and New Zealand to make a commitment of this scale.
Imagine it is the height of summer and all you have to wear is polyester clothing. Or other synthetic fibres. No natural, breathable materials. And you have to dress up for work every day. Soon, because your skin is irritated, red and blotchy, so are you, making you a nightmare to be around. So far, so bad. Now imagine you are pregnant, your body temperature is naturally a bit higher and your skin a bit more sensitive. But all you have to wear is uncomfortable, non-breathable materials. Sounds bad? It is. So bad that entrepreneur Elle Wang decided to found Emilia George, the first ever 100 percent sustainable maternity and nursing wear line.
Companies, Education, Fairs & Awards
Redress, the leading non-government organisation working to reduce fashion’s waste, has named its ten Redress Design Award 2020 finalists hailing from nine countries, including graduates from Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion and Northumbria University. The competition, which challenges fashion designers to showcase sustainable, innovative and textile waste-reducing designs, has named finalists from The Netherlands, Albania, Hong Kong, China, Sri Lanka, Canada, Italy, South Korea, and Vietnam, who were all praised for using a combination of zero-waste, up-cycling and reconstruction design techniques, as well as sourcing waste materials generated from all parts of the fashion supply chain and consumers in their submitted designs.
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