The global sustainable fashion industry has been growing at a record rate over the past couple of years. The rising awareness of the harmful effects of fast fashion, government initiatives, social media, the growth of e-commerce, and innovation have contributed to this steady growth rate. Can this growth rate continue? Let's take a look at the challenges to the further expansion of the sustainable fashion industry.
Consumer Awareness and Demand
There is a notable increase in consumer awareness of environmental and social issues related to the fashion industry. Especially since the covid outbreak. This created a greater demand for sustainable and ethically produced clothing. The sustainable fashion industry is still only a fraction of the global fashion industry. For the industry to grow at a steady rate there needs to be a sustainable increase in demand. Sustainable fashion can’t be a passing trend.
Most sustainable and ethical fashion brands are smaller and therefore have higher costs. They simply do not have the buying power or financial backing to drive down per unit production cost. They also tend to purchase higher quality material at an ethical price.
Many consumers in today's economy have gotten used to fast fashion and its low prices. The value they associate with an item may be very distorted and may only be a fraction of the real cost of producing that item. For example, a tote bag may cost 20 euros by a fast fashion brand but a sustainable brand producing a tote bag in Italy with natural leather may cost 150 euros per unit to produce.
It may be very difficult for a consumer to dish out 300 euros for a handbag, especially in this economy. But we need to find ways of driving down the cost of production to achieve scale and growth.
Creativity and Innovation
Innovation in materials and processes is crucial for the growth of the sustainable fashion industry. Especially as sustainable fashion often calls for the use of recycled or organic materials, as well as innovative technologies to reduce waste and environmental impact.
We have seen many such innovative materials entering the market such as plant-based leather, plant-based lenses and frames for sunglasses, and recycled ocean plastics fabric. It's crucial that we continue our efforts in research and development as it's essential for the scalability of this industry.
Regulations Standards and Transparency
As consumers have started to demand sustainability, large fashion brands have started to greenwash their products. The effects of this have been negative on the industry as a whole with many mainstream magazines, newspapers, and TV claiming that sustainable fashion is an impossibility and a hoaux.
This is where governments and non-profit organizations may help by setting and enforcing standards. For one they can ban the use of harmful materials, chemicals, and dies used in our clothing items. Second, they can encourage the companies to be more transparent with their sustainability efforts if they claim the product to be sustainable.
Third, both government and independent non-profit bodies can introduce certifications such as GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards). Our post on Global Sustainability Fashion Certifications will allow you to get a basic understanding of the 9 key certifications in the sustainability space. All these three actions could help consumers immensely to make informed decisions.
There are many challenges to overcome but the sustainable fashion industry has the potential to scale.