When it comes to the fashion industry's sustainability, there's still a lot of work to do. Here are 6 ways that can make a positive change this year
For the most part, fashion is still not on track to meet its climate targets. A recent report by Stand.Earth found that out of 14 major brands, only 4 are set to cut greenhouse gas emissions by the amount needed to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Going into 2024, we’ll need to see action accelerate across the fashion industry—which experts say will require greater collaboration. “We need the industry’s biggest competitors to down tools and hold hands, because we are 100% not going to get where we are going with only one or two leading the charge,” says Samata Pattison, founder and CEO of cultural sustainability company Black Pearl. “It’s literally an all-hands-on-deck situation, because we just don’t have the time for anything else.”
Luckily, legislation is finally on its way, with the European Union approving new eco-design legislation in December, which will include a ban on the destruction of unsold textiles and footwear products and requirements designed to improve the circularity of products.
Meanwhile, exciting innovations, from eco-friendly dyes to new recycling technology, could help provide some of the solutions needed. “I would definitely like to see more people backing new innovation; [those] finding solutions to help [the industry] get close to true circularity, and the reduction of waste and overproduction,” says Dio Kurazawa, founder of sustainable fashion consultancy The Bear Scouts.
Below, see six sustainability trends to look out for in 2024.
Legislation is finally here
Campaigners have talked about the need for legislation for years, and now (finally!) it’s on its way. The EU has approved new eco-design legislation, which the European Parliament is expected to formally adopt in the early part of 2024. Although the details are still to be finalized, there will be a ban on the destruction of unsold textiles and footwear products; requirements around the durability, reusability and repairability of products; and the introduction of digital product passports that will help offer more transparency about how items are made and their environmental impact.
On-demand fashion is set to rise
Overproduction is a massive problem in the fashion industry, with an estimated 10 to 45% of all clothes never sold to begin with. That’s because currently the model is based on retailers predicting what customers are going to buy—which is where on-demand manufacturing comes in. Brands such as Weekday and Desigual have begun experimenting with the made-to-order model, while Unspun—which partnered with Eckhaus Latta on its spring 2024 collection—provides 3D technology that can make clothes on demand, directly from the yarn.
Dyes become more eco-friendly
Currently, dyeing is a hugely polluting process—with rivers in countries like Bangladesh and China turned completely different colours from the chemical discharge. Luckily, there is a new wave of innovations, such as Colorifix (bacterial dyes used by Pangaia); Living Ink (algae-based dyes, used in a recent Nike x Billie Eilish collaboration); and Air-Ink (which turns pollution into dyes).
Seaweed is the material of the moment
While mushroom-based leathers have long been talked about, seaweed has stayed relatively under the radar—until now. Stella McCartney debuted a new seaweed-based yarn, Kelsun, on the runway for spring 2024, while brands like Another Tomorrow have partnered with SeaCell, which is created by responsibly harvesting seaweed from the fjords of Iceland.
New technology can recycle blended fabrics
Recycling remains a major challenge, with less than 1% of used garments currently turned into new clothes. One hurdle has been the difficulty of separating blended materials—which is where Circ comes in. It breaks down polycotton materials into polyester and Lyocell fibres that can be reused for new garments. In October, Mara Hoffman was the first designer to unveil a dress using Circ’s technology.
A just transition is a must
While new innovations are crucial, it’s important that the garment workers who make our clothes aren’t forgotten. Currently, a shocking 93 per cent of brands aren’t paying garment workers a living wage. Meanwhile, campaign group Fashion Revolution warns that a shift to on-demand models can put workers under immense pressure, due to “sudden and unpredictable surges.” It’s why a just transition is required: ensuring workers have secure jobs and fair pay as the industry continues to embrace new technology and move toward a more sustainable future.
Originally published on vogue.com