Sustainable fashion

The Young and the Super Rich are Mainstreaming Slow Fashion


Oct 29 2020 - Everybody has clothes they wear more than others for any number of reasons. Those reasons, however, are the key to a greener environment, because if consumers wear the clothes in circulation more often, it comes at the expense of resource-intensive production of new clothes, often most made from cheap, unsustainable materials. In the slow fashion, paradigm clothes have more value for consumers, who in turn tend to care more for the products. The global consumption of fast fashion is in no way in decline at current. On the other hand, changes are clearly underway, and it can be observed in the emergence of new circular startups, public debate, media, and a mountain of upcoming legislative frameworks addressing climate change and environment across the world. It can also be observed in today’s consumer behaviour: "Vintage, secondhand is massive. There is almost a new 'arts and crafts' movement taking place. People dig up the clothes of their grandmother to wear it. There is a search for something tactile, a connection with the things people own. It is not because the interest in textiles and garments is decreasing, but we want a deeper connection to the clothes we wear. That is a paradigm shift because you don’t have a deep connection with you clothes if you swap your wardrobe every six months," Johanne Stenstrup, Danish author, podcast host and sustainable fashion activist, said. At the tipping point of mainstream During her presentation at the Sustainable Fur Forum’s event on 29 September, she talked about the emergence of circular business models and the fast-growing secondhand market. All things that point to a market, however not yet a mainstream market. So how far are we from the tipping point? "I’ll say we are just short of 10 per cent. Within trend research, they say that when 12-15 per cent of a population do something, it tips over and becomes mainstream. That’s the tipping point between being a first-mover trend to becoming mainstream. I’ll say slow fashion is very close to becoming mainstream," Johanne Stenstrup said. Part of the paradigm shift is driven by the climate striking youth, who opposes the way their parents have been buying clothes. The other key driver of sustainable fashion is the super-rich, who drive a real demand for traceability, clean raw materials, and sustainability, which is also visible in the hotel- and restaurant sectors. The greenest eco-hotels around are the luxury hotels. The most successful high-end restaurants are those who offer slow food concepts like farm-to-table, fermentation, and locally sourced ingredients. Likewise - although still lacking behind the development in the hotel- and restaurant businesses - it is the high-end luxury fashion brands who have been first to invest in sustainability within the fashion industry. "There is, of course, still demography which is in the market for bling and gold, but there is a real push for sustainability and traceability amongst the superrich. If you can buy anything in the world, you want to be sure things are in order," Johanne Stenstrup said. Re-establishing our connection with clothes The emotional value of our clothes is tied with storytelling that was somehow lost during the industrialization. The availability of cheap materials and the efficiency of the production had the consequence that repairment of our clothing slowly, but surely was replaced by the unsustainable ‘buy and throw away’ culture of today. "Capitalism and industrialization have worked to eliminate our connection to our clothing and identity since consumers have been told identity lies in the buying of something new. Now we are beginning to re-establish the connection with the textiles we surround ourselves with. Clothes with emotional value work as an anchor to who we are and are often found in homemade clothes or clothes people have owned for a long time. Our clothing is closely associated with storytelling about ourselves and our identity," Johanne Stenstrup said. However, the slow fashion paradigm is not only in the hands of trendsetting consumer groups but must be established in the interaction between consumers, manufacturers and legislators. Waste management is already high up on the political agenda, and if waste begins to come at a cost for the producers, waste management legislation is likely to push manufacturers further towards circular business models. "Companies have to look at their products more like a service. This can be a built-in repairment guarantee, or rental models, which I think is very interesting for fur- and leather products. It is business models, where you make an income on the same product several times, or provide services to the product throughout its lifetime," Johanne Stenstrup said. Circular business models Natural fur has inherent circular qualities because of the material’s strong technical characteristics, and capability for biodegradation. These are qualities the fur sector can work actively with and potentially target new consumer groups. "Fur fits well into the circular economy, but some people have a problem with the animals. It fits with circularity to take responsibility for the second and third life of a product. Some consumers skip the first life of a product and go straight to buying upcycled clothing. This is a consumer group I think will grow bigger. They still want good design, and we can tell that new design with old materials is very much in demand right now," Johanne Stenstrup said.

Sustainable fashion

Nobody Cared About Clothing’s Lifetime. That is About to Change


Oct 06 2020 - How and why clothing is used is important to Ingun Grimstad Klepp. She is a research professor at Consumption Research of Norway (SIFO), and how clothing is used and interpreted by consumers is critical to its lifetime, which in turn is important to the environment. "I work to make lifetime more important. Nothing is better for improving environmental sustainability than a long lifetime. It makes a big difference. I think fur is an area where lifetime is crucial because the production itself has an impact, which relates to both environment and animal welfare. The longer time fur or other products stay in use, the easier it is to defend it," Ingun Klepp said. But while clothing life time currently is considered the most effective way to improve sustainability in clothing, it has been disturbingly absent from fashion’s sustainability debate, a debate that traditionally has had its focus on the production, while leaving the user-phase unexplored. Benchmarking tools favouring synthetics This limited way of assessing sustainability in clothing seems to be changing though, not least because both fashion sustainability experts and -NGOs with increasing success have put the fashion industry and its sustainability problems on the agenda over the past few years. Ingun Klepp is a part of this agenda-setting movement. In her research, she has targeted the blindside of the ‘Higg Materials Sustainability Index’ and ‘Made-by Environmental Benchmark for Fibres’, two widely used benchmarking tools for comparing the environmental impact of different fibres. Both tools, however, work without including the user-phase. Effectively this ends up favouring synthetic materials over natural materials, which have higher environmental costs at the material production stage. However, comparing the environmental impact of textile fibres while leaving out the user-phase amounts to comparing apples and oranges. It also fails to consider the significant environmental damage synthetic materials cause through microplastic pollution. Companies who produce fast fashion may not have an interest in including such measures in the various benchmarking tools for sustainability. Still, a part of the problem is also that the knowledge on both the user-phase of clothing and the extent and consequences of microplastic pollution is relatively low. "There are many things we know and many things we don’t know yet. The first thing that happens is companies say ‘we don’t know anything about the user-phase’. Then we must show it’s possible to include the user-phase. It is a necessary debate," Ingun Klepp said. Different material, different user-phases So Ingun Klepp has conducted research that demonstrates it is possible to distinguish environmental impacts of different materials in the user-phase because clothes made of diverse fibres are maintained differently. For example, wool requires less energy and chemicals to be kept clean, compared to cotton. Cotton requires a more powerful wash, and often also uses energy for drying and wrinkle removal. Synthetic fabrics become dirty faster and are washed more frequently, which further speed up the release of microplastics. According to Ingun Klepp, Sustainable Apparel Coalition now works to incorporate the user-phase in their benchmarking tools. Up until now, clothing has not been the focus of the same political attention, for example, single-use products and –packaging, which however utilise the same non-renewable textiles as much fashion clothing. In other words, the clock is ticking on the fashion industry too. "EU and Norway are preparing waste management policies, but the world market for used textiles is decreasing, and just now it is about stagnant. This means waste must be handled locally, and waste reduction comes higher up on the agenda. Extended producer liability is already in the making around os. When producers are required to take responsibility for waste, lifetime becomes important," Ingun Klepp said. Her own research is, however, more focused on what happens with the clothes we buy - how is it actually used? Long clothing lifetime has little value to the environment if the clothes are not used as an alternative to buying new. Long lifetime could, for example, imply long periods of storage, which would often be the case for natural fur coats as they are typical winter garments. It is important to establish the relationship between actual use and lifetime because it is needed to establish the so-called functional units, which are used in LCAs and make comparisons possible and meaningful. Show me your wardrobe ... How, and how much, clothing is actually used can be determined with the so-called wardrobe studies, a relatively new and still emerging research field, which through qualitative consumer interviews works to establish the pattern behind the - often unconscious – clothing choices people make every day. Understanding the user-phase of fur would also be relevant for the fur sector. It is particularly interesting because natural fur has the technical properties for a long lifetime, but the question is what happens to the fur throughout all this time? Ingun Klepp points out. She and other experts have been commissioned by the international wool industry to research the user-phase of wool garments on big consumer markets like China and Germany. "It is evident that user-phase is important to the wool industry. This can be used politically, and we have worked to demonstrate the user-phase for wool," Ingun Klepp said. Amongst other things this work has clarified, there are differences in the maintenance of different materials, which are important for the ultimate environmental impact of clothing. Equally important, understanding user-phase is an important part of improving your environmental footprint. "It is important to bring in a lifetime to LCA work because it can help to both improve and develop an industry," Ingun Klepp says. She stresses that when working with the environmental impact of an industry, it is important to assess the production across the entire value chain. Only the user-phase does still not have the position in environmental assessments it deserves, to provide a comprehensive and fact-based discussion over sustainability in clothing: Everything has a price, and we must be willing to discuss that price. I am for example of the opinion that we would have been better off if a global product like jeans were produced in half the numbers, but lasted twice as long", Ingun Klepp said. Photo credit: Sonja Balci / OsloMet

Sustainable fashion

Consumers do not throw away natural fur garments


Aug 21 2020 - The trademark problem of fast fashion is its short life. Various surveys estimate the life time of clothing between 2 and 3 years, for the most part before incarceration. From a sustainability perspective it is problematic when products are rather quickly replaced with new, resource-intensive products. According to the European Commission, long active life is currently considered the most efficient way to improve sustainability in fashion. Natural fur garments are famed for their long life time, but a new survey from the International Fur Federation bring real data to the argument. Across the four largest natural fur markets (Germany, Italy, UK and France) in Europe, 76 percent of fur owners said their natural fur garments will be given extended life through remodeling, donation or re-sale, when the garment is no longer in use. While the properties may vary between different fur types, natural fur generally has very good technical characteristics for long life. The higher price levels characterizing handcrafted products like fur garments is a well-established parameter for longer fashion product life, but interestingly product lifetime and sustainability also begins to have value to consumers in its own right. "It is definitely an argument that fur is a product that can be either upcycled through redesigning, or naturally recycled if you out put it in the soil. People understand these things now. Five years ago nobody cared, but today we talk much more about sustainability than we did before," German furrier Tim Mersmann said. Repairment and remodelling is core business From his shop ‘Mersmann Design’ in Münster, Germany, he sells a range of natural furs in addition to other natural leather materials. He estimates that 40 percent of Mersmann Design’s turnover on fur garments stem from redesign and repairing, while 60 percent of the turnover is generated from sales of virgin fur. Across Germany however, he believes turnover from redesigning and repairing of fur garments is considerably larger than 40 percent. Yet, the possibility of extending garment life comes as a surprise to consumers of the fast fashion age, to whom the bone marrow reaction is to simply replace old stuff with something new. "Many of the people who come in here don’t even know redesign exist. Some people come in with the motivation that they want to sell an old fur coat, or they want to know what kind of fur it is. We tell them, you have something of value here. A perfect, long-lasting material, and then we show them different possible redesigns. It often works," Tim Mersmann said. "The sales speech is supported by brochures outlining the possibilities with redesign, and fur technique samples displayed in the shop. Redesigning is also advertised in the street windows of Mersmann Design, and it should be a market of opportunity: only 16% of Germans in possession of a fur garment have had it redesigned, and Tim Mersmann think there are many old fur garments stored around Germany that could achieve new life through redesign – and thus contribute to a greener planet. Design for extended use Another sustainability advantage of handcrafted clothing is the opportunity to design for extended use. As many as 50 percent of the fur coats Tim Mersmann sell are reversible, making the garment suited for different occasions. "Here in Münster people are conservative and don’t want to show off, so they wear the fur inside. If they go to a posh place the fur will be outside, but if they go to the market the fur can be on the inside. I tell our customers: 'you have to wear it, and have fun with it'. A lamb or a mink coat can easily be worn for 10 years, so instead of buying many jackets releasing microfibers, you can buy one fur coat, and you have something that is more sustainable - and the price is the same in the long run," he said.

Sustainable fashion

Change in Fashion? Experts Say It is Now or Never


Jun 09 2020 - The coronavirus is a chance for the fashion industry to start over, claim leading fashion experts. Leading industry professionals see in Covid-19 an opportunity for the apparel and footwear industry to reinvent itself and move away from the mass production, contributing to its daunting environmental impact. "We will have to pick up the residue and reinvent everything from scratch once the virus is under control. And this is where I am hopeful for: another and better system, to be put in place with more respect for human labour and conditions," said Li Edelkoort, one of the world's most influential trend forecasters, advising fashion companies and brands around the world in an interview for Dezeen. According to the trend forecaster, the coronavirus epidemic also caused a "quarantine of consumption" which could change profoundly the way people think of fashion. How we got here? The global health crisis caused by COVID 19 triggered an economic recession for the fashion sector, but also raised questions about overproduction and excessive consumerism driving the fast fashion industry. With retail shops closed and supply chains disrupted, warehouses started filling up with unsold overstock, exposing the unsustainability of fast fashion business model. Fearing the economic fallout, people started prioritising purchases and demand for fashion products dropped. Studies show that 65 % of consumers in Europe and the US decreased their spending on apparel and footwear. The result – products manufactured before the outbreak are filling the shelves of warehouses, for which even online shopping is not a remedy. Designed to create fast profit by producing, using and disposing of a product, the fast fashion has been evading any environmental responsibility for a long time. Now, combined with the unravelling health crisis and an economic recession, the fast fashion model, becomes a recipe for disaster with social and environmental implications. With high street brands pumping out as many as 10-15 collections per year, questions about the overstock are arising. According to The State of Fashion 2020 Coronavirus Update high-street fashion brands will try to sell the old collections at discounts to compensate for lost profit and lure consumers back in shops. This could harm small retailers and manufacturers, who don't have the same competitive advantage as the multinationals and don't manufacture products in advance. The report warns of the possibility that fast fashion brands could resort to old tricks such as sending clothes to incarceration. However, this could be a risky move triggering a backlash. Given the complexity of the situation, many experts are trying to promote more sustainable alternatives. In an interview for Euronews, the head of British Fashion Council (BFC) Caroline Rush said that upcycling the excess stock of garments could reduce to their environmental impact and prevent waste. "My optimism is, as we go through this, that we really think about the inventory challenge that we're facing for this season, and use that as a unique opportunity to really think down the line: what will happen to that stock, where will it go?" said Caroline Rush. According to her, fashion designers should be compelled to consider recycling their excess stock of garments, "so that the product we have is re-used, shredded, goes back into new yarns and created for the future". However, when it comes to recycling in fashion, statistics are grim - only less than 1% of all textiles worldwide are recycled into new textiles. A Catalyst for Change Global crises are known to trigger an unexpected change in consumers behaviour. After the 2008 financial crisis, many people shifted to "fewer, but better" philosophy by investing in good quality timeless goods rather than buying into volumes. Now experts predict a further rise in popularity of slow fashion, a shift led by consumers trying to be more responsible in their purchases. This could also mean a surge in the repair services and second-hand shops as a means to prolong the lifespan of clothes. These two aspects of both slow fashion and fur also offer more affordable opportunities for consumers. "People are keener than ever before to celebrate longevity and imperfection in clothes, particularly now that we are so aware of the impact our throw-away culture is having on the planet," said Suzie de Rohan Willner from the British slow fashion label Toast for Vogue. Isolation gave time to consumers to slow down and rethink their entire approach towards fashion, consumerism and sustainability. "Climate change is the next great challenge we need to address together, and this pandemic is forcing us to acknowledge that economic, environmental and human health are all deeply interconnected, and meaningful solutions will only be possible if integration, collaboration and transparency are at the forefront of a new industry paradigm," said SAC Executive Director Amina Razvi. Economists estimate that despite the contraction of 27 to 30 %, the fashion would also be among the first one to recover. But a crisis is always a catalyst for change. Many hope that now, facing consumers demand for a change, the global apparel and footwear industry would finally do what it was promising for a long time – slow down and take responsibility.

Sustainable fashion

We already know fur has long life time. Here is how it gets longer


May 19 2020 - There is a technical lifetime to clothing, and then there is a social life of clothing. The technical lifetime is about the physical strength of materials, how long does it last without breaking or ‘wear out’. "A product like natural fur has the technical potential for long lifetime, so it is important to work with the social side," said Ingun Grimstad Klepp, a research professor at Consumption Research Norway, Oslo Metropolitan University. She conducts research on sustainable textile and clothing, with a particular focus on the user-phase of clothing. This area of clothing is somewhat underexposed in the sustainability debate, yet understanding how and why people wear their clothes is critically important to reduce the environmental impact of fashion. This is based on the simple observation that the more we wear the same clothes, the less we will buy new, resource-demanding clothes. The user-phase of clothes can be studied empirically as the connection between material and cultural aspects of clothing and consumption. Here you can find answers to why some garments become favourite clothes, while other garments are hardly used, if ever. Lifetime is impacted by a number of social or cultural factors, important ones being whether the clothes fit, and what use we have for the particular types of clothes in our wardrobes – active outdoor people will utilise outdoor garments more excessively. What is ‘in fashion’ is less important to active use than people may think, but reflects that active use of clothing sometimes changes over time. "Waterproof suits became more used when the design became more light and functional. A wedding dress, on the other hand, will not be worn more than once by the same user," Ingun Klepp said. Personalisation and flexibility Improving the social or cultural life of natural fur would apply mainly to the design- and manufacturing part of the fur community’s value chain. It would imply to take advantage of the already strong technical characteristics of fur and support its extended use in the future. At the design level, this can unfold as preparing for multiple users by preparing for future refurbishing and repair – think push buttons for example – while also paying attention to personalisation and garment fitting. Areas more exposed to being ‘worn out’ can be made replaceable, and good quality can be enforced by the use of good technical quality in add-ons like buttons and linings. "You can work with the adaption of fur for different occasions, for example, clothes that work for both festive and less festive occasions, as something that protects against the cold, but still usable when the weather is mild. Overall, you can say it is about flexibility," Ingun Klepp said. At a commercial level, it might unfold as new business models targeting the sharing economy. Innovation could also arise from changing the original product: "It is a very interesting feature of fur that products can be reused and turned into something else," Ingun Klepp said. In Norway however, this is not happening a lot. Many furs are stocked in Norwegian cellars and ceilings and are simply not being put to use. "There are many people who don’t dare use their inherited furs – or buy second-hand fur. I believe this is wrong. Everything that has already been produced ought to be used with good consciousness," Ingun Klepp said. Fur farming will be banned in Norway from 2024, following a decade-long political debate that has helped shape the stigmatisation of fur that exists in Norway today. Thus it created attention when Ingun Klepp publicly promoted the use of second-hand furs in Norway for environmental reasons, a position quickly disputed by animal lobbyists fearing increased use of second-hand furs will add to the legitimation of ‘new’ fur. "Those who disagree with my talk about symbolic value, but for me, it is a matter of good utilisation of resources," Ingun Klepp said. Whether this little part of the sustainability debate in Norway will lead to more Norwegians wearing second-hand fur has yet to be proved, but Ingun Klepp says the reactions suggest many people principally agree. Clothing lifetime becomes important This resonates well with Ingun Klepp’s expectations that a ‘new way of consuming’ is underway to its breakthrough: "Today, people take mass consumption for granted, and consumers have gotten used to it, and consume accordingly because they have gotten used to being able to buy ‘new’ all the time. But it was not always like this, mass consumption was a revolution when it happened, but consumer behaviour has matured beyond mass consumption, there is an element of ‘been there, done that’ around today. The interest for re-use, knitting and home production is growing," Ingun Klepp said. But one thing is talking about fashion’s transition towards sustainability. Another is what actually happens. This part is largely still in front of us, but change may happen fast: "We don’t see rapid changes in consumer development. On the other hand, if we look at the debate it is evident it has changed a lot. There are many things which point in the direction of fast-paced changes. It has to do with both youth and politics," Ingun Klepp said, with reference to the climate-conscious youth movement, and the undeniable emergence of green reform legislation across the world, before stressing her point with a hands-on example: "The debate that follows plastic waste in the oceans is a part of a lifetime discussion. The whole discussion over plastic is about user-phase and lifetime, and it has led to certain single-use plastic products being banned. It is clear that we are now discussing these things, and therefore lifetime becomes important."

Sustainable fashion

‘This is Fur’ Exhibition Grows in Popularity in European Parliament


Jan 23 2020 - ‘This is Fur’ is an attraction in the European Parliament, where Fur Europe’s European lobby event takes place 21-23 January. More than 100 bilateral meetings had already taken place before the final day, Thursday, but it is the many spontaneous visits to the stand in the communication area of the Altiero Spinello building that surprises Fur Europe. “The stand is somehow visually attractive because we get lots of guests, who are just curious to see what’s going on. People are really sweet, and our messages are well received. Our members have been very busy this week, but we have a lot of fun with it,” said Fur Europe CEO Mette Lykke Nielsen. Spontaneous visits to the ‘This is Fur’ stand range from MEPs to other animal industries and –sectors, and once inside the attraction is the fur garment samples, all designed for longevity but with different strategies. “Fur samples were also popular on previous ‘This is Fur’ events. Natural fur does that to people. You just have to touch the material when you see it. This time we also brought a virtual reality experience from fur farms. This is popular too, especially the younger audience is keen to put on the virtual reality goggles.” The stand also offers two furriers working both on the remodelling of second-hand garments, and answering questions about the craft, material, repairment, personalisation and care. Fur Europe’s purpose with bringing its members to Brussels to meet their national MEPs and other stakeholders is to inform about the circular qualities of natural fur and promote the sustainability policies of the industry. According to Chairman of Fur Europe, John Papsø, this goal has already been achieved: “Our environmental attributes and advanced approach to animal welfare is an eye-opener to most people, so I think it is safe to say we will come back. Fur always comes back,” he says. The lobby event closes down Thursday 23 January at 4 p.m.

Sustainable fashion

Sustainable Fashion Debate During ‘This is Fur’ Sold Out


Jan 10 2020 - The opening remarks will be delivered by Fur Europe's CEO Mette Lykke Nielsen, when Brussels media Politico hosts a panel debate on sustainability in the fashion industry during the 'This is Fur' event 22 January. Politico's Spotlight “Achieving Sustainability in the Fashion Industry: what’s the way forward?” will take place inside the European Parliament: "Clothes contribute more to climate change than international flights and shipping combined, and the problem is getting worse. Falling prices and the rise of fast fashion have led to growing demand and a tendency to see clothing as disposable. As Europeans’ wardrobes are getting bigger, so is the sector’s environmental footprint," the event description reads. Among the subjects of the panel, the debate will look at potential legislative plans to reduce the fashion industry's environmental impact, current linear business models, how to get consumers to buy less, but better clothing, longevity and so on. Fur Europe is a partner of the event because of the subject's alignment with both values and policies in the fur sector: "Well, natural fur is the very symbol of slow fashion, and today's clear-cut consensus is that longer active clothing life is the most effective way to improve sustainability in fashion. No garment compares to natural fur when it comes to longevity, and it is a huge environmental advantage when you can distribute a product's footprint over a long time. So Politico's debate hits a tune with us in the fur community. We always involve ourselves in the societal debates we have stakes in," Mette Lykke Nielsen said. The interest for the fashion debate has been very big, and there are no more seats available.

Sustainable fashion

Furriers Launch Online Platform to Quench Desire for Recycling


Nov 13 2019 - A new online platform in Spain helps consumers eager to recycle fur to find fur workshop easier and faster. Plataforma Ipeleteros has an integrated search engine, which allows identifying a fur workshop based on location and individual needs of the customer. After filling in a short questionnaire, the platform pinpoints the most suitable furrier to do the remodelling and puts the customer in touch. Javier Hernandez, a furrier and the founder of the platform, came up with the idea after realising that people often struggle to find the right kind of service. After the main workshop in Barcelona, furriers from Madrid, Barcelona, León and Valencia also joined the network, which so far attracted 500 new customers. Its popularity grew significantly recently, which Javier attributes to increased concerns about the environment. "It is impossible to open a newspaper or to listen to the news without hearing about climate change. Experts recommend recycling to avoid CO2 emissions and to give materials a second life. It is very important to encourage customers to reuse their clothes," Javier said. "This is exactly what we are doing - contributing to a circular economy by using the fur skins for longer." According to Javier, the slow fashion movement has prompted people to shift to more conscious consumerism by buying less and using for longer. "Clients don’t think about buying something new all the time; they much more prefer to take advantage of what they already have because it either has some sentimental value or because they invested money in it." Throughout his career, Javier has come across fur coats as old as 70 years. He says that even with a minimum lifespan of 30 years, fur clothes could easily be upcycled into contemporary models. Beyond the environmental aspect, the online platform also has another advantage. As it became more popular, it boosted employment for many small to medium-sized fur businesses across Spain. "Over the years, this little experiment has become a platform that generates work for many workshops," Javier said. He hopes that in future, the platform could expand further in Spain, but also in other European countries where consumers are interested in upcycling.

Sustainable fashion

Long active product life is an emerging trend in fashion


Nov 05 2019 - The debate over sustainability in fashion continues to snowball, and a new report issued by the European Commission provides a forward-looking business angle to the debate. The report offers a mapping of future business opportunities for SMEs within sustainable fashion. The authors recognise long product life as an “emerging trend”, and this idea – keeping clothes in use for as long as possible – also makes up the foundation of many of the report’s case studies, trends and business opportunities. “Longer active life is now considered the most effective way of improving sustainability“, the report concludes, echoing NGOs like Fashion Revolution, Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Greenpeace, all stakeholders who for environmental reasons promote product longevity and a move away from today’s massive consumption of disposable fast fashion. At present longevity is the single largest opportunity to reduce the carbon, water and waste footprints of clothing. Quite simply, if clothes have a longer active life, they can be replaced less frequently - reducing the volume discarded to landfills and meaning fewer resources are consumed in manufacturing. Until a few years ago it was generally unknown to the broader public that washing of textiles like nylon and polyester causes microplastic pollution. In the same way, the idea of extending the lifetime of clothing for sustainability reasons has grown with consumers in the past few years, much fuelled of course, by the increased societal focus on climate change in general, and the massive pollution of the fashion industry in particular. Today, 39% of consumers in the UK say the fashion industry should prioritise design for long active clothing life in order for fashion to become more sustainable, according to a new survey commissioned by the International Fur Federation. The long active life of fashion garments can be supported in different ways but is often most associated with price, quality, fit, emotional attachment, product warranties, remodelling, reuse and the availability of workshops where clothing can be repaired. When the EU points to emerging trends within sustainable fashion, which provides potential business opportunities for SMEs in Europe, the general focal point is also extended product use. Increased customisation, ‘fashion on-demand’ (as opposed to bulk manufacturing) and business models based on clothes sharing are the key trends identified by the EU Commission, while consumer-wise the report says there is a shift towards new value-led consumerism taking place, which is particularly evident in the younger generations. According to fashion researcher Else Skjold, Associate Professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation, Copenhagen, the shift in consumer attitudes is however, not reserved the young but represent a wider societal idea that first and foremost manifests itself in a showdown with fashion’s inherent narrative about the fashionable as something new. "At present, we are experiencing what I consider a weariness amongst consumers over a system that increasingly has flooded the market with poorly manufactured clothes. It’s apparent in dropping sales of high street fashion. It’s apparent from a decreasing number of exhibitors at fashion fairs because manufacturers are moving away from large collections to small ‘drops’ in order to avoid dead stocks. It also shows at fashion weeks as more and more designers let go of the traditional runway formats. Even within the established fashion press, we begin to see alternatives to the storytelling about ‘new’. This movement reflects the beginning of the end of the production system we know today," Else Skjold said. Regardless of emerging trends, however, there is still a long way to go for a fashion industry more or less caught up in traditional linear business models designed produce cheap, fast fashion - and lots of it. In spite of many sustainability initiatives within the fashion industry, any progress is suppressed by the ever-growing consumption. According to the industry’s own report ‘The Pulse of the Fashion Industry,’ the amount of clothing being purchased is expected to rise from 62 million today to 102 million tons in 2030. If fashion indeed faces the paradigm shift towards circular business models and value-led consumption suggested by NGOs and experts alike, the established fashion industry could benefit from looking at the way the natural fur is designed, consumed and handled, Else Skjold says. She points to the way natural fur throughout a time otherwise characterised by disposable fashion, have continued to be a product consumers took to furrier workshops for repairment and remodelling. In turn, the active life of natural fur garments is counted in decades rather than years, often with more than one user. "Natural fur is an example of both a circular economy and durable design. In the end, it is these things that matter in sustainability," she said.