FASHION. Is sustainable activism a new fashion style?
Will tomorrow’s fashion be necessarily connected to the planet? For many designer labels, born on the internet, with radical positions, the answer is already “Yes!” For historical and more established fashion retailers any such shift is more complex.
“There has never been so much money in circulation in the economy and so little sense,” says Violette Wating, M.D of Le Slip Français (underwear made in France with 16 stores and 60% online). “For us, CSR is not something complementary but existential. For this to work, it must come from the very top management.” In fashion, the challenge of Sustainable Development (SD) is important. Evidence of this is the rise of second-hand platforms such as Vinted and LeBonCoin. “80 billion items of clothing are manufactured every year around the world,” says Valérie Tiersen, former C.E.O. of La Redoute Belgium, who supports retailers in any sustainable transition. Global polyester production absorbs the equivalent of 70 million barrels of oil per year. It takes 7,000 litres of water to make jeans and 2,500 litters for a 250-gram T-shirt. Every year in Europe, 5.8 million tons of textiles are sent to landfill. 70% of new clothes are never worn!”
However, SD is not central to firms like Maje, Sandro, The Kooples or Inditex. They talk about fashion and style as that’s what made them successful. They may also develop one or two lines of sustainable products. Puma has a collection of biodegradable and recyclable shoes. For Laurent Thoumine, Retail Director at Accenture, there are 3 types of players. “Exemplary cases with historical companies that have placed SD at the heart of the model are rare. Patagonia is probably the only one. There are the good students, such as H&M, which has a lot of initiatives like collecting used clothes in store, and mushroomed on a global scale. Finally, there are some scattered initiatives that do not transform the model, like capsule collections ”.
How can any large-scale industry expand beyond established specifications?