Sustainable fashion: how do we get there?

rethink sustainability

Sustainable fashion: how do we get there?

Pollution-generating processes, over-consumption and waste... consumers and investors are prioritising sustainability but today's textile and fashion industries no longer match up to their expectations. Faced with this reality, some brands are rethinking their practices. We take a look at sustainable fashion where ecology is a priority in all seasons.

…consumers and investors are prioritising sustainability but today's textile and fashion industries no longer match up to their expectations

Away from the glitz and glamour, fashion is a pollutant

Despite sustainability taking centre stage, fashion is not very on trend. The industry produces 10% of the world's carbon emissions - more than aviation and shipping combined - and 20% of waste water1. Every year, synthetic fibres release 500,000 tonnes of plastic micro-particles into the oceans, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles2. Even more worrying is the fact that this pollution is on the up. We now buy twice as many clothes as 15 years ago and wear them for half the time. And brands are manufacturing more and more to keep up with consumers of fast fashion. Some, especially those geared towards the general public, release up to 24 collections a year. This is how we end up wasting the equivalent of one skip of textiles, buried or burnt, every second. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, fashion will consume a quarter of the world's carbon budget by 2050 if nothing changes. Worried about this situation and public awareness, manufacturers are now rethinking their approach.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, fashion will consume a quarter of the world's carbon budget by 2050 if nothing changes

Discover our partnership with Plastic Bank to reduce ocean plastic pollution here

Recycling, innovative yarns: eco fibres

Some companies have been innovating for decades. Shoes, trousers and bags, for example, are now being made from recycled plastic. With 20% of materials coming from the ocean3, marine plastic is particularly popular. Adidas, in partnership with Parley for the Oceans, has made five million pairs of shoes from recycled marine plastic since 2018. Veja, a French brand founded in 2004, has also specialised in recycled materials. With a few exceptions, all the fabrics for its trainers are made from recycled polyester. Even the luxury goods industry is getting in on the act. The latest collection from Stella McCartney – a long-time advocate of sustainable fashion – includes a range of accessories made from bottles, fishing nets and other plastic waste pulled out of the ocean.

Adidas, in partnership with Parley for the Oceans, has made five million pairs of shoes from recycled marine plastic since 2018

Besides being recycled, materials can also be produced as part of a circular and clean economy. We already have renewable, organic, water-efficient and energy-efficient materials such as flax, hemp and bamboo. Ekyog, for example, has been using them since 2003. Other materials are not yet widely used but are promising. One example is nettle, which requires neither irrigation nor pesticides. To make clothes, nettle fibre (which protects against both heat and cold) can be mixed with organic linen and with wool. The "eco" jeans of Dutch brand Netl have been made using this process for two years.

Read how wood can be transformed into sustainable textile here

 

Reuse and the second-hand market: reclaiming scraps

What can unused scraps of fabric be used for? It is better to upcycle them than to throw them away. The principle behind upcycling is to transform unsold or unused fabric into repurposed garments. This is what Kiliwatch is banking on, for example, with its "Culture Vintage" range. Frédérick Calmes, Director of the Paris-based concept store, says "this means we can sell garments like Schott bomber jackets embellished with inserts of authentic silk kimonos, revamped leather biker jackets and bespoke work jackets".

And then there is second-hand fashion. According to a study by the Institut Français de la Mode: "39% of French people bought at least one second-hand garment or fashion accessory in 2019, compared to 15% in 2009. And 48% of consumers said they wanted to buy more by 2020. This sector already turns over more than 1 billion euros in France". So in terms of making fashion more sustainable, consumers have understood the value of vintage chic. Opting to buy second-hand clothes means they can help prevent overproduction but still enjoy themselves. Vinted (12 million users), Videdressing.com, Vestiaire Collective... more and more platforms are going live.

…second-hand fashion… already turns over more than 1 billion euros in France

Read more on second-hand fashion here

Some brands have faced the facts and created their own second-hand programmes to encourage this approach, as well as promote the sustainability of their products. In 2014, for example, Balzac Paris launched a second-hand platform allowing individuals to sell and buy its clothes. "Our garments are made to last and to live more than one life. We take them back to encourage the circular economy and ensure they live as long as possible," the company says. Many brands are following suit such as Petit Bateau, which has created a second-hand section on its app, but Cyrillus, Bocage, Decathlon, La Redoute and others are also in the game. The enthusiasm for second-hand fashion is palpable.

A pair of jeans can travel 65,000 km during its production cycle. That's 1.5 times around the Earth

Optimised logistics

A pair of jeans can travel 65,000 km during its production cycle. That's 1.5 times around the Earth4. The sector's logistics, and consequently the transport modes and production sites within it, have a crucial role to play. Deloitte, in its roadmap towards sustainable fashion, sums it up: "Economic interests intersect with environmental concerns on the issue of transport: so there is consensus on the need to rationalise logistical flows, review the choice of transport mode at each stage, optimise orders and container fill rates, and then to explore the possibility of (re)locating some production sites as close as possible to the points of sale".

The sportswear giants, in an attempt to reduce the impact of transport and packaging, are also heading in this direction. Puma has developed a reusable bag for its trainers and a box that contains 65% less cardboard than traditional boxes. In 2017, Decathlon replaced some of its air and sea journeys with rail journeys.

Fashion has the ability to transform, but customers will have the last word and push the sector to reinvent itself

"The fashion industry is no longer tenable [...], but consumers have the power to change industry practice by changing their habits, starting with buying less and buying better," shared Eléonore Kubik, Head of France Nature Environnement's Waste Management and Prevention project.

We believe that fashion has the ability to transform, but customers and investors must push the sector to reinvent itself and build a responsible industry. Investing in the transition towards a CLIC™, Circular, Lean, Inclusive and Clean, fashion industry is key to securing a net zero future.

 

UN environmental figures, 2019
2 Ellen MacArthur Foundation, "A new textiles economy: redesigning fashion's future", 2019
3 Parley for the Oceans
4 ADEME (French Agency for Ecological Transition), "Carnet de vie d'un jean" (Diary of a pair of jeans), 2014

Important information

This document is issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd or an entity of the Group (hereinafter “Lombard Odier”). It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a document. This document was not prepared by the Financial Research Department of Lombard Odier.

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