SUSTAINABLE FASHION: WHAT, WHEN, WHY AND HOW

by Tatum Siles , July 31, 2020
Refinery 29

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtably taken the world by storm, a situation no one saw coming. However, lockdowns and quarantines worldwide have allowed many of us time to reflect on life and the environment more specifically. The planet has been given some much deserved TLC offering it a chance to heal after many years of abuse. The air is getting cleaner and the waters are getting clearer as we begin to see marine life thrive and pollution levels drop. The fashion industry, in particular, has been called upon to stop, rethink, and reset with the hope to limit the amount of damage done to the planet. With this in mind, we would like to emphasise the importance of sustainable fashion and pre-loved clothing, in particular, to show some light at the end of the tunnel. In the article to come we will delve deeper into the WHAT, WHEN, WHY AND HOW’S of the sustainable fashion industry.

 

Clive Stewart

 

WHAT: IS SUSTAINABLE FASHION?

A phrase that has only recently emerged from the framework of an industry founded on the grounds of excess production and consumerism. Even the most prominent icon behind this ever-evolving industry, Anna Wintour, has recently spoken out about the importance of sustainable fashion, urging consumers to be more mindful of their shopping habits. We are being urged by the greats to rethink our notion of clothing. No longer should we think of garments as disposable items but instead as items with longevity that need to be cherished and/or shared. 

In order to make sense of this shifting paradigm whereby sustainable fashion is gaining more and more recognition, a collective understanding of the industry can prove extremely helpful. What better place to start in making sense of this multifaceted movement by utilising the bounty of resources available to us. Sustainable fashion comes in many different shapes and forms but fundamentally implies the production and consumption of clothes, shoes and accessories in environmentally and socio-economically sustainable manners, involving a shift in individual attitudes and behaviour (Green Strategy).

We have included a few sustainable fashion methods below in order to make you a more conscious shopper in the future: 

  • Pre-loved or second-hand retailers (such as HULA)
  • Rental systems for leasing clothes and accessories (such as Hong Kong based YEECHOO
  • Companies focusing on creating garments of high quality and timeless design (long-lasting style and durability) 
  • Collection and recycling systems supporting increased textile recycling, working to reduce waste in the fashion industry (Redress)
  • Upcycling garments using textile waste in order to manufacture new garments (R Collective)
  • Using recycled goods and raw materials to manufacture garments (Cosmos Studio)

 

WHEN: SHOULD WE ACT?

BCG Analysis

The above graph is a depiction of the world’s projected fashion consumption of apparel and footwear. The global population is expected to rise to 8.5 billion by 2030 with GFA and BCG projecting that the overall apparel consumption will rise by 63%, from 63 million tons today to 102 million by 2030. Bearing this in mind it is essential to emphasise that currently the fashion industry is one of the most polluting in the world and resultantly this will grow alongside the population. With these facts in mind, right now is the perfect time to act before it is too late. 

I know you’ve probably heard it time and time again but Global Warming is very much a pressing concern for our planet. The world temperatures are rising, the glaciers are melting putting all living creatures at risk, including us. If we don’t limit global warning now not only will the environment suffer but it will also have severe repercussions on human health:

On the bright side many businesses have altered their business model in order to locate sustainability at their core. A global shifting perspective is imminent as we are constantly reminded that the future is determined by what we do NOW and this window of opportunity is fast closing. The fashion industry has an opportunity to create large scale social change for millions worldwide. At HULA we strive to ensure that this change is possible with the hope to contribute to shaping the fashion world by consigning and selling one pre-loved piece at a time.

 

WHY: IS THIS DISCUSSION SO IMPORTANT?

In a recent poll we conducted through out Instagram page we found that the majority of HULA’s audience believe they are not educated enough on the impacts of fast fashion. 

Education is vital in making a positive shift towards salvaging our planet. The biggest culprit contributing to the negative stigma of the fashion industry is “fast fashion” or clothes made cheaply to meet the demands of ever-evolving trends and styles. 

It is vital to follow up this claim with some evidence:

Bearing these alarming figures in mind HULA along with some incredible companies and organisations hope to make an everlasting positive impact on the industry with the hope to reverse its negative rep.  The fashion industry despite having its flaws is a dynamic and eclectic industry, one which the world couldn’t survive without. It is an engine for global development and one of the world’s largest consumer industries generating around €1.5 trillion in annual apparel and footwear revenues in 2016 alone, employing around 60 million people

Fashion doesn’t have to cease to exist. However, people’s mentalities behind the industry must change, particularly the throw-away culture that has developed as a consequence of the fast fashion industry. Fast fashion has been the leading force for far too long having environmental and social impacts. Last week we published an article exploring the social impacts of the fast fashion industry, particularly the welfare of the labourer around the world. Hence, educating our readers and the wider community of the detrimental impacts of the fast fashion industry will hopefully make our audience more aware of the current situation. Sustainable fashion needs to replace fast fashion as the driving force behind the fashion industry one step at a time. 

 

HOW: TO HELP?

You might be bored of hearing it but REDUCE, REUSE AND RECYCLE. Drastic measures must be taken in order to make fashion more sustainable and one way to ensure this is through extending the lifecycle of clothing and garments. The second-hand clothing industry is set to grow to 1.5 times the size of the fast fashion market within the next 10 years. This can be credited to the fact that consumers are becoming more and more aware of the negative impact of mainstream fashion on the environment creating a drive towards shopping pre-loved and sustainable items. 

This evolving mentality towards a circular economy has been given rise to the younger generations, led by millennials and Gen Z. According to a BCG-Altagamma report, over 50% of Gen-Z’s are have bought or sold second hand clothing reflected in the booming of second-hand marketplaces such as Depop. The diagrams below illustrate how a circular fashion economy operates. 

Common Objective

A 2019 report predicts that the second hand sector will be worth an impressive US$51 billion within 5 years, overtaking the fashion market by 2028. However, we can’t sit back now and assume the hardest part of the work is done. It is our job to continue to allow the pre-loved and sustainable fashion market to thrive by educating ourselves and our friends further. 

 

THE HULA COMMUNITY 

The HULA community has embarked on a lifestyle change. This change has led each and everyone of us to take one step closer towards leading a more sustainable life. When you shop or consign with HULA not only do you come across some incredible finds, you also contribute to the growing sustainability movement. 

“Almost 100% of HULA’s audience said that sustainability is either extremely important or important to them with the majority choosing to shop at HULA because  it is sustainable”

Living in a thriving international city such as Hong Kong, pre-loved and second-hand goods tend to be coupled with a rather negative stigma. Existing taboos around shopping pre-loved tend to be at the forefront of many consumers’ minds, however, the HULA is blurring the lines. The good news is that this is working! The data we have collected resembles a positive shift in this outdated mentality revealing that our customers are happy to or even prefer to shop pre-loved.

We have compiled a list below of some of our fave HK-based sustainable companies (not limited to sustainable fashion alone) hoping to make a positive impact on our environment:

Basics for Basics 

The R Collective 

Cosmos Studio

Classics Agnew 

A.C.F. Clothing

Edgar

Live Zero

 

Fancy reading more about this important topic? Visit the following: 

Common Objective: What is Circular Fashion?

Pulse of the Fashion Industry: The Global Fashion Agenda Report 

BCG Report: 2019 True Luxury Global Consumer Insight 

Forbes: Why Sustainability Matters?

Young Designers Discuss Sustainability in Fashion

 

Working towards a more sustainable life is an ever-evolving learning curve. We hope through this article we have educated our community further on the sustainable fashion industry and its importance. At HULA we continue to seek new information about what we can do to further make a positive impact on the environment and welcome any feedback, advice or resources you have to help broaden our horizons even further. Sustainability is a work in progress. A work in progress we must all give our undivided attention and efforts to in order to salvage our beautiful planet.

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