February 15, 2019
Whether you call it slow fashion, eco fashion or sustainable fashion there is little doubt that amidst the heightened environmental awareness and activism of 2018 the sustainability of clothing and textiles became a key focus. With designers, brands, consumers and politicians placing increased scrutiny on the environmental impact of our wardrobe choices, 2019 could be the most significant year for sustainable fashion yet.
In recent years it has become increasingly clear that trend-driven ‘fast fashion’ has some significant environmental costs. It’s estimated the fashion industry produces 100 billion new items of clothing every year, with the majority made from virgin resources and three out of five of those items winding up in landfill within 12 months of being bought. A recent report from Stand.Earth found the industry is responsible for 8% of global climate pollution, with total emissions that would make it the fourth largest climate polluter on Earth as a country. By 2030, it is predicted that the fashion industry will be using two Earths’ worth of resources, with the demand for clothing rising by 63%.
However, that could be changing as consumers increasingly demand ethical products and the industry becomes increasingly aware of the social and environmental impact of their products.
The rising trend in fashion with a conscience is confirmed by the numbers. Fashion search engine Lyst tracked more than 100 million searches across their shopping site over the past 12 months, finding a 47 percent increase in shoppers looking for items that have ethical and environmental credentials. This increase in consumer interest has corresponded with a 128 percent increase in the number of sustainable womenswear options.
Last year also saw the value of the ethical clothing market increase by 19.9 per cent according to consumer guide organisation Ethical Consumer. With 34 percent of the 18-24 age group and 29 percent of the 25-34 group withholding spending when a product has a negative impact on the environment, it’s clearly beyond time for the fashion industry to step up to the plate
Boosting the shift towards sustainable fashion is the rise in celebrity fashion influencers who wear ethical and sustainable garments and, perhaps even more significantly, are wearing them more than once. Amongst the proud crop of environmentally-conscious outfit repeaters are Meghan Markle, Mindy Kaling, Michelle Obama and Cate Blanchett, all of whom are well-known for seeking out fashion labels that do good for both the people they hire and the planet.
In the fashion industry, Australia has traditionally been behind the latest trends simply due to the nature of our different seasons in the Southern Hemisphere. In the slow fashion sphere however, Australian brands and designers are increasingly bucking that trend.
Australia is well-placed to respond to the need for change and solutions through the establishment and growth of the Australian Circular Fashion Conference – due to be held again in March 2019 following a successful debut last year.
This year, the conference will feature an array of esteemed global speakers, leading sustainable fashion consultants and over 500 business leaders from multinational fashion companies. Those attending will join with these professionals to brainstorm the concept of “circular fashion”, which utilises innovative recycling practices to reduce residual waste and encourage more sustainable fashion practices.
Liam is Planet Ark's Communications Coordinator. Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia.