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


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!


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 27 years old, and is the main editor of The Fashion Footprint, which is based on her passion for sustainability and fashion and the ongoing question of how to make a transition of the industry. She has studied civil engineering in Sustainable Design at Aalborg University in Copenhagen, where she was engaged in 2 projects on how to make the fashion industry more transparent for the buyers and another on how to implement Circular Economy in a large danish fast fashion brand. Besides this interest, she always has a full calendar either with yoga or training, or with photography and installation exhibitions as possible.

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