This will make a great leap for a more sustainable fashion industry
Hi Anna Brismar! You’re a full time sustainability consultant within the fashion and textile field. How does one go about to become that?
– The field of sustainability, fashion and textiles is very interdisciplinary and complex. Thus, it generally takes great interest, curiosity and time to develop competence in the field. It is definitely possible to gain much knowledge and expertise through personal studies, learning by doing and successive professional experience. But it is always useful to have some appropriate academic background, such as higher courses in environmental science, agricultural science, development studies, behavioral science, etc. Having said that, the field is so large, diverse and expansive, that there will be a need for a wide range of different competences, personalities and niches in the years ahead.
What’s your daily routine when it comes to keeping updated on developments in the field of fashion and sustainability? If you were to recommend one or two sources of information to all of us who want to learn more on the subject without becoming all too depressed or overwhelmed, which ones would it be?
– On my company homepage, greenstrategy.se, I have set up a page called “Online new sources”, which contains links to the most essential high quality news sources in the field of fashion and sustainability. So, I try to visit these sites and read their latest news once every week or two. That, I hope, gives a pretty good overview of what is going on in the field. Also, it could be worth visiting certain company sites directly, for example H&M, which tends to be quite ahead in the field and open about their working progress. To read the new sustainability or social reports of two or three more active companies is also a good way to stay updated, for example the reports of Filippa K, Nudie Jeans, H&M and Lindex.
If you want to learn more about the subject, I would actually recommend a visit to Green Strategy’s homepage and the page “Sustainable Fashion”. There, I have assembled and put together all essentials in the field of sustainable fashion, hopefully in an accessible way, such as “What is sustainable fashion?”,”Seven forms of sustainable fashion” and “Sustainable consumption”. Part of this material can also be found here on Make it last’s site, which we are very happy about. There are also good books on the subject, but most of them are over 200 pages long and can be difficult to digest as first reading.
What’s the one most pressing sustainability issue within the fashion industry today, in your opinion?
– The most pressing sustainability issue, in my opinion, is to reduce the incredible speed of new fashion production. Unfortunately, there is still little talk about this side of the equation. Most fashion companies tend to focus on the adoption of more sustainable materials, more transparent sourcing and supply chains, better social and economic working conditions, take-back schemes, and closing the loop on textiles. All these aspects are indeed very important issues, but the fast production cycles also need to be seriously addressed.
For this reason, fashion companies should try to find new ways of providing fashion that can significantly reduce present production volumes, while still being economically viable. For example, fashion companies should develop their existing business models to provide a much broader range of services, such as fashion on-demand, custom-made, tailor made, repair, redesign, rent/lease and secondhand. More conscious fashion brands are already providing some of these services, but the larger fashion chains are far behind in this area. Combined with an extensive use of more sustainable materials and fiber types, this will make a great leap for a more sustainable fashion industry!
What’s your personal way of approaching the often difficult questions of whether a sustainable fashion industry is actually a possible scenario for the future? You know, when people ask you whether it’s even possible to talk about such thing as “sustainable fashion”?
– I believe that fashion can be so much more than just producing and buying new fashion items at fast speed. Today, fashion is more about finding and holding on to your personal style, by carefully choosing and caring for your favorite wardrobe pieces, slowing down your shopping frequency, and buying new pieces with a critical eye and conscious mind.
Instead of buying newly produced items, we need to experiment more with other types of wardrobe renewals. For example, we can share clothes with family and friends, borrow or rent clothes for special occasions, try clothes swapping (on your own initiative or at public events), buy more second hand and vintage, as well as learn how to repair, redesign and make our own clothes. Why not attend a knitting course with a friend this fall, and learn how to knit your own woolen scarf! Buying clothes on-demand is the next hot thing in fashion! By participating in the final design, by selecting your preferred style, fabric and possibly other design details, it will make you care for and hold on to your clothes longer.
And soon, when a complete system for collecting, sorting and recycling of discarded textiles at fiber level is in place in Sweden, large-scale fiber recycling of cotton and viscose textiles will actually be possible! This will enable new clothes to be produced from old, thus closing the loop on cotton and viscose textiles.
So, yes, the combination of various factors will together enable an almost sustainable fashion industry. To summarize, the most important of these factors are: a much slower production rate of new fashion items; the use of more sustainable materials and ways of production (with no harmful chemicals used); a broader provision of fashion services (such as on-demand, custom-made, repair, redesign, lease and second hand); a more conscious and selective individual behavior in relation to fashion; and fully operational fiber recycling systems.
Who’s your favorite designer?
– I have several favorite designers and fashion brands. For example, I really like Filippa K, Stella McCartney, Honest By and the Danish brand AIAYU, mainly because of their clean and simplistic styles, modern prints, high quality tailoring, and more sustainable material choices.
Read more about fashion and sustainability on Anna Brismar’s company site, Green Strategy.
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