If the speakers in episode 7 have a common thread (pun intended), it is that fashion must move to a “less and better” paradigm, from production to consumption. The industry is caught up in an entangled web of issues, including entrenched decades-old practices, loud proclamations around sustainability and little tangible action, states Guido Dal Pozzo. Unlike food, fashion has relied on self-regulation, but with disastrous consequences.
As long as focus is on propping up margins and delivering fast, brands will forsake quality. This has led to over-production.
“We produce not because we need, but because we can,” Asbjorg Dunker.
She advocates that we need to balance ecology, ethics and economy rather than the traditional iron triangle. But how?
Today, a designer might know where the fabric was woven, but not its origin or how it was produced. What appears to be cheap is because the price is not factoring in the full environmental cost, but humanity will get a very big bill later, Caroline af Rosenborg warns. On the other hand, regenerative practices improve the soil and biodiversity, and have longevity. Pure natural fibres are biodegradable. Maybe there should be a tax on every polyamide, polyester or plastic-based fibre, Caroline suggests. In any case, a designer must consciously start upstream.
From Guido’s perspective, affordable fabrics will have to be demand-driven. Brands should also have close, collaborative, long-term relationships with their suppliers, and make wages and other considerations a shared responsibility.
That said, we must avoid the trap of greenwashing. This leads us onto our role as consumers.
Today’s excess started with ready-to-wear and more people having disposable incomes. Social media and e-commerce have exacerbated it. People fear if they do not make an instant purchase, the clothing will disappear. “Well, let it be gone! It’s not like your life depends on it,” dismisses Asbjorg. A retail scheme of trading in products, only to be incentivised to buy more, is not going to reduce consumption.
Consumers choose counterfeit products because of status, ignoring the craftsmanship of the original. Yet, if we are more conscientious, that can still be part of the brand. Craftsmanship is not, by its very nature, scalable, but technology can help. Indeed, clothes have embraced technological advancements for millennia. Today, data can measure the impact the industry is having and change can come from the inside, says Caroline. Legislation can follow.
Ultimately, clothes have power. Asbjorg reminds us that they tell stories and differentiate cultures and identities. In the twenty-first century, we should be aware of the production and lifecycle of our clothes, buy on demand, opt for timeless pieces and go back to custom-made. We should consider animal rights and artisanal work, and patronise independent, secondhand and vintage shops. We must also repair, re-design, upcycle, hire, lease or swap clothes. That would not just have an ecological benefit, but a psychological one. We would reignite the love of clothes, not just fashion.
Available on all major streaming platforms
Lecturer at Fashion Retail Academy, Mentor & Founder of The Asbjorg Method™
Asbjorg Dunker is a fashion consultant and senior lecturer, and creator of The Asbjorg Method™, a trademarked mentoring programme. Currently she teaches fashion styling, fashion sociology, consumer trends and semiotics, at university of Westminster. In addition to teaching contextual studies and consumer behaviour at Instituto Marangoni and the Fashion Retail Academy.
CAROLINE AF ROSENBORG
Fashion Design Consultant and Founder at Caroline af Rosenborg
Caroline AF Rosenborg started training in Savile Row at Hardy Amies, joined Vivienne Westwood’s design team as a senior designer until she went out on her own to start a sustainable swimwear line. She is currently in the process of launching a new regenerative brand named ‘Atonement” with her business partner Elizabeth Keach. Focused on creating regenerative clothing for an environmentally better world. “Designing clothes that empower people and planet is our goal.”
GUIDO DAL POZZO
Senior Lecturer, Fashion Supply Chain Specialist & Brand Management at Fashion Retail Academy
Guido has 15+ years of fashion industry experience working with internationals brand such as Benetton Group and Burberry. He specialised in product development, sourcing and supply chain management, focusing on fashion sustainability. Truly passionate about higher education, he has worked with variety of institutions, including the Instituto Marangoni.