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News Roundup: Sustainability in fashion

News Roundup: Sustainability in fashion

As summer comes to a close, having experienced the hottest month on record globally, floods and droughts, we reflect on how the fashion industry is responding. In case you missed them, here’s a roundup of some of the updates over the last few months.

PUMA pledges to source all leather from deforestation-free supply chains by 2030 or earlier as part of its 2030 climate commitment

The latest Fashion Transparency Index by Fashion Revolution highlights that the fashion industry still has a significant distance to go in addressing global inequality and the climate crisis. While there has been progress, with an average score of 26%, up by 2% from the previous year, the organization notes that much more needs to be done. Positive steps include over half (52%) of the major brands disclosing their top-tier suppliers, marking a significant improvement since 2017 but the overall average score in this category is only 23%. Additionally, for the first time, a luxury brand, Gucci, scored 80%, with other luxury brands like Armani, Jil Sander, Miu Miu, and Prada making notable improvements.

However, the report points out persistent issues, such as a lack of transparency in supply chain and production volumes, tax evasion, and the growing CEO-worker pay gap. Abhorrently only 1% report paying living wages to workers in their supply chains. Overproduction remains a major concern, with 88% of brands not disclosing their annual production volumes which raises alarm bells for any progress towards a degrowth model. Fashion Revolution emphasizes that even 100% transparency is just a starting point and urges major fashion brands to step up their efforts in addressing critical social and environmental challenges in the industry.

Fashion Revolution publishes the Fashion Transparency Index 2023

One of the most prominent areas of innovation is the development of leather alternatives. Traditional leather production from cattle has a substantial environmental impact, contributing to an estimated 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In response, innovative materials like Mylo have gained traction.

Mylo: made from mycelium, the root structure of fungi. Supported by major players like Stella McCartney, Adidas, Gucci-owner Kering, and Lululemon, Mylo is produced by growing large sheets of fluffy foam from fungal cells, followed by a tanning process. While not completely plastic-free yet, Mylo aims to eliminate synthetic content in the future.

Reishi: Another promising material is Reishi, developed by MycoWorks. Like Mylo, Reishi is created from mycelium sheets grown from specially-engineered cells and agricultural waste. Hermès, in collaboration with MycoWorks, launched products made from Reishi, marking a significant shift towards sustainable luxury fashion.

Mirum: crafted by Natural Fiber Welding, represents a plastic-free alternative to leather produced from plants and minerals. Mirum is touted as endlessly recyclable, creating a fully circular material. Brands like Allbirds and Pangaia have already embraced Mirum, with Ralph Lauren also investing in the company.

Piñatex: made from pineapple waste, Piñatex has gained popularity among brands like H&M and Hugo Boss. Although it currently contains a bio-based plastic (PLA) and a PU coating for durability, Piñatex represents an early alternative leather that showcases the potential of sustainable materials.

Vegea: another plant-based leather option, crafted from grape waste from the wine industry. Since winning the H&M Foundation Global Change Award in 2017, Vegea has been adopted by brands like Ganni, Pangaia, and Calvin Klein. While it still contains 45% PU, Vegea offers a sustainable alternative to traditional leather.

Better Cotton joins the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Sustainability Pledge

Better Cotton, the world's largest cotton certifier, has pledged to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Sustainability Pledge, joining a group of 90 others including Inditex, Vivienne Westwood, Retraced, and WWF. This pledge is part of an open-source suite of policy recommendations, guidelines, and standards aimed at enabling industry players to authenticate their sustainability claims. It seeks to foster a "community of practice" that collaborates on enhancing traceability and transparency as critical elements of sustainability and circularity within the textile industry. Better Cotton also plans to launch its own Traceability Solution by the end of 2023, allowing its members to verify the country of origin of Better Cotton cotton in their products, thus supporting farmers and suppliers in accessing regulated international value chains.

Take-back Trickery: The Changing Markets Foundation revealed what really happens to garments in take-back schemes

A large-scale investigation by the Changing Markets Foundation has revealed that major fashion retailers, including H&M, Zara, C&A, Primark, Nike, The North Face, Uniqlo, and M&S, are failing to fulfill their promises of reusing or recycling donated clothing. Using Apple AirTags to track 21 donated items, the study found that three-quarters of the clothing met a bleak fate. Items were often destroyed, left languishing in warehouses, or shipped to African nations, where their future was uncertain. For example, trousers donated to M&S were discarded within a week, jogging trousers given to C&A were incinerated in a cement kiln, and a skirt donated to H&M traveled thousands of kilometers to end up as waste in Mali. Only five of the 21 items were genuinely reused in Europe or sold in resale shops.

The investigation exposes how brands are misleading us with their claims. Changing Markets' campaign manager, Urska Trunk, criticized these misleading promises and called for stronger measures to combat wasteful practices in the fast fashion industry. Trunk emphasized that these initiatives often encourage more clothing consumption by offering customers vouchers, discounts, or points, exacerbating the fast fashion model's waste problem. While the EU is working on strengthening its waste regulations, additional measures are needed to address the mishandling of used clothing, with France and the Netherlands already setting legally binding reuse and recycling targets, and many fashion brands expressing support for such initiatives.

Sustainable Fashion Week Returns

Sustainable Fashion Week (SFW) is set to make a triumphant return for its third annual edition, scheduled to run from September 25th to October 8th, 2023. With a resounding theme of 'The ReWear Revolution,' SFW continues its mission to raise awareness and promote sustainable fashion practices. This two-week extravaganza will feature an array of engaging activities, including workshops, markets, debates, film screenings, and more, spread across various locations in the UK and beyond. The event's growth is evident with the introduction of two-day hubs not only in its home base of Bristol but also in Plymouth, Manchester, Bradford, London, Cardiff, Frome, Brighton, and even internationally in the USA, India, and Papua New Guinea.

The heart of SFW lies in its commitment to addressing critical issues within the fashion industry. Over the years, the fashion-conscious public has become increasingly aware of the environmental and social impacts of their clothing choices. SFW seeks to harness this momentum, offering an extensive program that includes DIY natural dye workshops, styling and swapping events, clothing mending workshops, sewing sessions, clothes swaps, and much more. By providing participants with practical skills and inspiration, SFW empowers individuals to embrace sustainable fashion practices, encouraging the reworking and rewear of garments, thereby reducing waste and promoting a culture of exchange. SFW Founder Amelia Twine passionately states, "We collectively need to help protect our changing climate and proactively create the kind of fashion industry future generations deserve to see." Underlining the importance of community involvement in inspiring and driving positive change in the fashion industry, SFW's efforts have already made a significant impact over the past three years, facilitating crucial conversations, spreading knowledge, and uniting experts and communities in the sustainable fashion movement. Read more about SFW here .

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"Buy less. Choose well. Make it last."

Vivienne Westwood

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