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Fashion and sustainability in July 2023

By Simone Preuss


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Tree Girl. Illustration: Jackie Mallon

While July mainly beckoned with warm summer weather, it revealed some dark clouds in the field of fashion and sustainability: The European Court of Auditors, for example, found that the EU’s transition to a circular economy has come to a virtual standstill despite the ten billion euros made available to EU member states to promote the circular economy.

The European Commission has not been idle either and published an updated Waste Framework Directive (WFR) focusing on textile waste in early July. This is intended to support the separate collection of textile waste, which will be mandatory in the EU from 2025, and promotes circular textile technologies such as fibre-to-fibre recycling. However, it is not far-reaching enough and does not set specific targets for reuse and recycling, which the Changing Markets Foundation calls a “missed opportunity”.

Lack of transparency, textile recycling and support for material innovations

The Fashion Transparency Index 2023, published annually by international fashion network Fashion Revolution, highlighted the industry's need to catch up: only about half (52 percent) of the 250 major fashion brands surveyed disclosed lists of their Tier 1 manufacturing operations and more than a quarter (28 percent) or 70 out of 250 companies are still between 0 and 10 percent when it comes to their efforts.

US-based Bolt Threads, which has been developing vegan mushroom leather Mylo, announced that it is pressing pause due to lack of funding. This article wonders if we prefer to invest in AI because it is sexier rather than in innovative materials?

So much for the bad news; on the positive side, the Textile Exchange shed light on the unique potential to establish beneficial production systems for fibre hemp in a new report titled “Growing Hemp for the Future: A Global Fiber Guide”.

Studies eye circularity

The British Fashion Council’s Institute of Positive Fashion (IPF), along with the support of Vanish, unveiled a comprehensive insights report as part of Phase 2 of the Circular Fashion Ecosystem Project. It aims to underscore the significance of empowering citizens to adopt garment care and maintenance practices through the integration of technology.

The EU Parliament, meanwhile, advocates for longer-lasting products and wants stricter EU rules, for example with regard to unsold textiles and electrical and electronic equipment that may no longer be destroyed. This comes at a time when a study by the Changing Markets Foundation found that most garments donated to major fashion stores are destroyed, not repurposed. The new rules are also intended to make products more sustainable.

“In future, consumers can be sure that their t-shirt, sofa or detergent meets minimum criteria in order to protect the climate, the environment and resources,” promised Anna Cavazzini, chair of the EU Parliament's Internal Market Committee.

A report titled “Worn Out” based on research by the School of Design at the University of Leeds found that price is not an indicator of how long clothes will last, challenging the perception that paying a higher price means better garment durability. Meanwhile, a new report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has outlined a series of industry improvements by the companies and brands participating in its Jeans Redesign project.

Jeans Redesign. Credits: Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Shoe recycling, resources and climate initiatives

On the brand and corporate side, About You, Yoox Net-a-Porter and Zalando expanded their joint climate initiative, while LVMH aims to reduce its water footprint by 30 percent by 2030. Meanwhile, the global sustainability initiative Fashion for Good aims to scale shoe recycling together with Adidas, Inditex, Target, Zalando and FastFeetGrinded.

Last but not least, France stood out in July with two initiatives: the government wants to support consumers in repairing their clothes and shoes and will introduce a bonus from October 2023 to encourage them to have their clothes and shoes repaired instead of throwing them away. The aim is to reduce the 700,000 tonnes of clothes that the French throw away every year, two-thirds of which end up in landfills. The country has also stopped printing receipts automatically. This is to stem the flow of 30 billion receipts often printed on thermal paper. Those who still want a receipt can request one and receive it by email or SMS.

Japan was just as innovative - thanks to an initiative by Japan Airlines, travellers to Japan will be able to fly with light luggage next year. In cooperation with the Sumitomo conglomerate, which rents clothing for tourists and business travellers, the airline wants to minimise its CO2 emissions through lighter luggage with the initiative "Any Wear, Anywhere".

Also read:

Circular Fashion
Sustainable Fashion