Will the Public Turn On Fashion & Luxury For the Sake of Sustainability?

Of the Unwavering Public Response to Sustainability Attempts

in brief

First trend of our latest The_Black_Box report, discover our hypothesis about why a ‘TakeLash’ in the Fashion and Luxury industry might happen. A possibly mounting turmoil regarding unsustainable practices, in the continuity of the strong and widespread negative reaction to the growing power and influence of large technology companies, particularly those based in Silicon Valley.

As with past protests against Big Techs, press releases and pact signing are increasingly perceived as hollow, toothless, or worse, useless marketing ploys; signaling how sustainability itself, as a concept, is losing its meaning in the process.

2019 saw Fashion and Luxury houses take steps in the right direction (be it spontaneously or after being pressured to), reacting to the desire for a more sustainable approach for the industry becoming mandatory, through the will of young generations and protestors alike. Yet, while headlines felt encouraging at first, it took little to no time for people (individuals and experts) to notice that few were putting their money where their mouth is. Indeed, pacts and evolving business practices towards a greener, more responsible product development process fail continuously to show a sheer possibility of being a greater goal than their quest for profitability.

Credit: Extinction Rebellion / Gareth Morris

Weary of what they now consider to be only media hype, consumers are still waiting for fashion and luxury to show a sincere willingness to take risks to right their many wrongs (According to the UN, the fashion industry dumps an estimated 92 million tons of textile waste into landfills each year. That figure could increase by up to 60% in the next decade). The long term risk of this situation lies in the possibility of seeing the public turn on them, as seen with tech companies (even though, Big Tech are still stronger than ever, even after the intense backlash they endured and their ability to remain, in a sense, inescapable). As the environmental challenge becomes more and more political each day, so is the viewpoint of people: every communication efforts now stirs suspicion and comes under scrutiny.

However, such mental block lies in the complexity to widely educate, being correctly understood and changing consumption habits, that translate in a lack of sustainability street cred from brands. While some are aware of the complexity of the Fashion supply-chain, many are still believing a one size fits all, perfect solution lies somewhere.

Such belief, built on our collective tech-solutionist approach to our era (the evergreen “there’s an app for that” motto), prevents to realize that even recent developments aren’t infaillible. The Adidas & Stella McCartney’s Inifinite Hoodie pilot project, while appreciated as a Proof of Concept, still faces many hurdles to become a mainstream development process. Take back programs, an interesting opportunity to tackle the fashion recycling problem, often ends up becoming another way to stand out and profit at the same time, at the expense of a more sustainable way of enjoying fashion and needed investments to revamp supply chains. In the meantime, figures tend to show our throwaway culture persists, with about 40 to 50 per cent of collected clothing in the US being too damaged to salvage, according to the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association, forcing even the most proactive brands to store damaged products indefinitely, until they figure out what to do about them. 

As the online interest in recycling fashion is constantly growing every month, myths about recycled garments remain to be deconstructed, as much as presenting the whole industry’s current shift as a meticulous work in progress rather than a radical and simplistic turn.

How did this prediction from last semester fare?

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