The rising awareness of the climate ‘emergency’ combined with the global pandemic, widespread wildfires and fast fashion scandals have left their enduring mark on us. As we become more conscious of the environmental impacts of fast fashion, sustainability has become a hot topic for consumers. With over 8.1k searches per month and an annual growth rate of 52.3%, search for sustainable fashion is not slowing down. But what does sustainable fashion actually mean to modern society?
What is sustainable fashion?
In practice, sustainable fashion means short-lived fashion trends are becoming less relevant while sustainability-related keywords like ‘pre-owned,’ ‘second-hand’ and ‘upcycled fashion’ have increased by 37% in online searches. As consumers reconsider their approach toward fashion and style, they are demanding brands become more eco-conscious and ethical. With rapidly advancing technology, fashion is taking steps forward every year. Whether it’s innovative materials, exclusive collections, made-to-order manufacturing or product passports — there’s definitely a lot to keep up with in this dynamic industry.
Sustainable fashion trends 2022
So, here is a round-up of the key sustainability trends to keep an eye and ear out for in 2022.
The rise of rental
Fashion rentals are rising, and fast. The global online fashion rental market is expected to reach a value of over $2 billion by 2025. As eco-conscious shoppers demand an alternative to fast fashion, renting clothes is the perfect substitute for purchasing a brand new ‘trendy’ outfit that you are unlikely to wear more than once. The fashion rental movement offers a sustainable way to access the latest trends and luxury brands too, as you can rent clothes for a fraction of the retail price. This is a win-win as you save money while being kind to the environment.
Fashion meets technology as engineers and designers create new and emerging technologies in response to the demand for eco-conscious fashion. Innovations across fabrics such as denim, nylon, silk and synthetics are continually being designed and developed for a greener future.
Econyl is a great example of this and is gaining attention for its efforts in diverting waste from landfills. The textile is made from recovered waste, e.g. fishing nets and industrial plastic from oceans and landfills that have then been converted into textile and carpet yarns for both the fashion and interior industries.
See below to see a Prada dress and a rug made from econyl:
Many brands are also taking advantage of on-demand or custom manufacturing, a system where garments are only made when needed and in quantities required. This contrasts greatly with traditional manufacturing where garments are made in huge quantities and stored in facilities until they are sold, distributed and delivered.
On-demand design is another way brands can remain sustainable while resolving the huge problem of returns. With garments being made to order, there are no wasted stock or excess materials left over and the significant amounts of water, wasted energy and dye that are typically produced in traditional methods are no longer present.
Product passports could be the next big step for brands being transparent with consumers around the information of garments. Brands are using new technologies to store, track and share information about products.
QR codes can be used to allow consumers to scan product tags and instantly learn information about where the garment is made, how it is made, what materials it is made from etc. These QR codes give us a bigger picture of the origins of the garments and provide transparency from the brand to the consumer. They can also be useful in the booming resale market as these codes can verify authenticity and previous owners.
Transparency > Greenwashing
For brands to be trusted, there needs to be overall transparency every step of the way. Brands need to be as open and honest as possible about what’s going on behind the scenes and how, where and by whom the garment is made.
Being transparent means sharing all the information of every actor involved in the production process from beginning to end, from the fields to the shelves. This provides customers with visibility and an awareness of exactly what they’re buying and how it’s got to them.
Brands should look to publicly disclose information that is comprehensive and supported by data like targets, standards and certifications.
It’s very easy for brands to call something ‘sustainable’ but as consumers, we need to know the finer details as this allows us to make smarter decisions.
Transparency can be seen as a tool for storytelling and we think when this is best utilised, it can help build a brand and regain trust with consumers.