Friday 10 February 2017

mainstreaming sustainability

Hi there!

Today's blog post title is actually the same title as one of the chapter's in my thesis, which I'm desperately trying to complete by the middle of the year. Wish me luck! So you may not see as much from me in the coming months while I prioritise that very important project.

Today I was struck by this short article in Retail Wire asking, "When will sustainable fashion go mainstream?" It was specifically discussing H&M's Conscious Collection, which you know I have some qualms about. At the end of the brief article the author asks for comments and thoughts as to whether sustainable fashion will enter the mainstream, and the biggest factors to addressing this shift.

Here's my (quickly drafted!) response:
Sustainable fashion will undoubtedly continue to gain traction in coming years. H&M's Conscious Collection plays a major role in raising awareness of sustainable fashion, yet their overall business model will preclude that organization from becoming truly sustainable.

Contrary to some previous comments, many sustainable fibers have a better look and texture than the synthetics and blends that have come to mark much of the fashion industry in recent decades; this is especially true when comparing to H&M's (and other fast fashion retailer's) standard lines in which the fabric pills and breaks apart after a few washes. Fabrics including organic cotton, wool, silk, hemp-blends and others have greater longevity, and Tencel/Modal offers draping and texture found in synthetic rayon/viscose products without the environmental footprint. 

Sustainable fashion designers are already addressing fabric innovations and style, and in my experience as a sustainable fashion writer and researcher, price will remain a primary barrier because consumers are not used to paying a complete or true cost of fashion.  In addition, the rapid change of styles encouraged by many retailers will have to adjust so consumers do not feel the need to buy new pieces as frequently, or dispose of the old.

We cannot solve 'sustainable fashion' with a 'fast fashion' business model - it's not only fabrics, style and texture, but quality, price and tempering the desire to consume.

However, in agreement with other comments, the millenials are all over this, and are demanding sustainable, stylish, quality and lasting clothing. It's not an unsolvable problem, but it likely won't be solved by the likes of H&M or their Conscious Collection alone.

What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear them! The above was a quick 'brain-dump' style response, and I'm sure there are more thoughtful ideas to consider.

Comment here or on their article to keep this conversation going and ensure the future of fashion is undoubtedly sustainable.

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