Some of you might have listened to my talk at Interlaced 2015 this week, on the topic of ‘Sustainable Fashion Through Technology’. I tried to zoom into two huge topics for the fashion industry: sustainability and technology. Both will have a huge and unpredictable influence on the future of fashion, but how can they work together?
I was very excited when Kristina, Founder of Interlaced, the meeting place for those shaping the future of fashion technology, invited me to speak at the 2015 event.
Whilst most speakers gave insight into their role working on the tech. side of fashion, I was to give mine from the sustainability side.
The famous equation of Environmental Burden helped me to explain why sustainability needs technology. At the moment P/ Population increase, A/ Affluence (levels of consumption enticing us to spend more on more), and Technology are increasing the EB/ Environmental Burden.
So to decrease the environmental burden we can’t easily reduce population growth, or levels of affluence. But by making technology the denominator of these two we can offset growth in Population and Affluence levels.
After I shocked the audience by revealing that fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world second only to oil, plus the industry with the second largest use of water after agriculture (!)…. we can see fashion has a pretty big environmental burden for tech. to get to work on. Lots of challenges = lots of opportunities!
I have finally come to conclude my research dissertation on social labelling of clothes (huge thank you to all who contributed!), and started to focus on the role of technology in labelling clothing with environmental and ethical criteria.
Atm we attach fabric labels to our clothing, which we check not just to find out the size of our garments, but how to care for them and wash them, plus where the garment was made. But ‘Made in China’ means seemingly nothing…..what does the name of a country reveal about the manufacturing process of your clothes? Nothing. That’s what.
We need to help our labels tell us more about our clothing, as they’re quite little labels really, with not much room to tell us more about the kind of conditions our clothes might have been made in, who made them, or what the impact was on our planet.
Initiatives such as Fashion Footprint are investigating ways of using QR codes attached to clothes labels to give shoppers more info. on the story behind their clothing.
This is just one example of how technology and sustainability working together.
But could more be happening to make shoppers aware of the environmental and social impacts of their clothing?
I think there is more to come from technology to progress sustainability in the fashion industry.
My talk at Interlaced 2015 was just the beginning of my journey into the future of sustainability and technology in the fashion industry. Later this month I will be heading to India, to visit tech. incubators in Bombay and Bangalore, and garment factories. I’m looking forward to connecting with some bright minds, and not just talking, but creating solutions.