Fashion have always represented for mankind more than a merely utilitarian attribute to cover and protect body and skin. Since remote ages has accompanied and underlined human evolution and expectations along an unbroken path until growing its relevance to the point that represents nowadays one of the biggest industries in the world, generating $2.5 trillion in global annual revenues. Fashion is deeply rooted in our culture, behaviors and life and sometime it is able to shape environment and social systems. Despite of this long-sized journey beside humanity it is far from appearing in a good shape. Pamela N. Danziger recently wrote that “2020 was the year fashion almost died” in this article featured on Forbes. Even if this statement could appear merciless on our beloved fashion, I am more likely to agree than not.
There are many reasons for that. From a financial side the vast majority of companies were deeply affected by pandemic, a paradigm shift happened on consumer behaviors urging a great majority of brands to move distribution from physical retail space to online and to cut on their retail network.
More transformations are still to come as economic consequences of nCovid-19 will unfold all over both developed and emerging countries, but we are currently far from understanding the bigger picture. This is, nevertheless only one side of the coin and recent pandemic were not the major reason that took fashion in troubled waters.
The fashion industry is said to be a top polluter responsible for 10% of the global greenhouse gases emissions while it is estimated to use around 1.5 trillion litres of water annually. In recent times as sentiment around environment and social responsibility of individuals has grown, in particular due to climate change and consumerism bad effects on social and natural environment, politics have been forced to take action toward sustainability in different fields.
EU provided this year an investment plan of 1000 billion by 2030 in order to stop greenhouse gases emission and with the ambitious target to fully create social and financial growth without resources exploitation, by 2050. UK followed recently on this path and US have authorized 35 billion in spending on wind, solar and other clean power sources. This happened last days of 116th Congress, but we do believe it will not be alone as new stimulus packages and investments will be launched to recover from pandemic effects.
So far, fashion industry efforts are not pairing with demand for sustainability and are keeping up even less with recent changes. McKinsey & Co. analysis pointed out that fashion is abating only emissions from incremental growth and it will reach 2,106 billion tons of CO₂ equivalent by 2030, that is about 50% higher than target set out by 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
The entire business is about emotional attachment, loyalty, and excitement for brands. We still believe that people will be looking to fashion as a way to express themselves into a social environment and they will be eager to follow upcoming trends in the need of coherently describing their own personality and willingness, in particular in a moment where things change so fast. For sure, social commitment and a fast growing awareness about communities will induce people to balance aesthetics and responsibility the next years, if not next months.
Brands should invest directly into developing new technologies, involving the entire apparel supply chain from fiber producers, fabric mills, dyeing house, cut & sew, to retail brands.
Time is running out and they can not relay on suppliers to pull out the next thing. Last decades of exploitation over the supply chain have forced a substantial reduction on Research and Development under a continuos pressure uniquely oriented towards price cuts. Merging of distribution, manufacturing and raw materials production could represent in the short term a first step to create sustainability in the long-term.
Biggest challenge for fashion industry is shifting from commodity business to a technology related business, with growing importance of IP and strong partnership with supply chain.
We are looking forward to seeing how fashion players will take action on this.
Will tech companies enter the market?
Is it time for a new “Silk-on Valley”?
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This article appeared on FashionTech Talks
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