Sustainability captured in a collection or in the DNA of a brand?

zara_copenhagen

Recently, the Inditex owned brand Zara launched a new sustainable collection called #JoinLife.  The #JoinLife initiative is made with materials aimed at reducing environmental impact, and is designed for “a woman who looks into a more sustainable future”. Zara’s sustainable agenda does not only include product, but also packaging and more. So seen from a holistic perspective, Zara’s take on sustainability is starting out really well. However, #JoinLife only includes a small amount of styles, which is maybe 0.1% of their total amount of clothes produces – if not less!

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Picture taken in Zara store in Copenhagen of their #JoinLife

Zara is not the only high street brand or fast fashion brand announcing a sustainable agenda. Gina tricot has a sustainable collection called #EnjoyLife, Weekday has one called #Remains and Vero Moda has one called #GreenAttitude. H&M have a lot of sustainable initiatives under the umbrella called Conscious. Recently, they announced their goal to be 100% circular. Also, during CBS Green Week Mia Møgelgaard, sustainability coordinator at H&M, announced that H&M has changed their DNA to include sustainability. At some point I think H&M said that they want to give their customer the choice of choosing sustainability.

A matter of changing the customers’ priorities?

But is it the responsibility of the customers? In some way, customers should prioritize sustainability when buying clothes. At least according to H&M, the customer has the possibility of choosing sustainability. But what if the style of the sustainable product or clothes is boring? I did a small research project during spring as part of my master in Sustainable Design, where I found that most people when buying clothes prioritize style, fit, and price over whether or not the clothes is sustainable. So the way I see it, sustainability has to be made fashionable in order for customers to prioritize sustainability higher.

Is it green washing?

All these sustainable collections is a really good starting point. Rome wasn’t build in a day! And there is no such thing as being 100% sustainable in an industry that is defined by consumption But right now it seems like the brands are only launching sustainable collection in order to follow the market. H&M has been standing alone for a while, but now everyone is pushing out sustainable collections. But what about the rest of the company’s production? It seems like the long-term perspective is missing. So it is a bit ironic, which is why it is on the edge to be green washing, because what about the rest of the brands enormous production of clothes? The fashion industry has a largely negative environmental issue. According to an investigation by MSNBC earlier this year, most items are worn only seven times before we ditch them for a closet upgrade – so imagine all the clothes being thrown out? The collective production facilities leaves a massive carbon footprint. I am not saying the brands mentioned are green washing, but I am just saying that I expect a long term perspective.

Enough with a sustainable collection?

So is having a collection of styles labeled as sustainable enough? What about the 99.99% of the styles which is not sustainable at all? How does a company make the rest of the brand more sustainable? How does a conventional company change their DNA towards a sustainable one? Can they change? And do they want to change their brand identity to be a sustainable brand?

Stine Pedersen

Stine is passionated about the ongoing question of how to make a transition of the fashion industry and how sustainability and fashion can be connected. She will therefore write about alternative ways of 'consuming' fashion such as vintage, up-cycling and redoing. She is currently Project Manager at Leaderlab and LAUNCH, and has a background as Sustainable Design Engineer finishing of with a thesis in how to implement Circular Economy in a large danish fast fashion brand. Besides this interest, she always has a full calendar with friends, family,  training, exhibitions, sewing... // CONTACT: stinekolding@gmail.com

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