Both consumers and producers are becoming more aware of the costs associated with fast fashion, which has led to a reform of the industry’s supply chains to improve visibility and cut down on unnecessary production and waste.
Among sustainability-minded consumers, fast fashion is officially out of style. Modern clothing is inextricably linked to pollution and waste because it is mass-produced using environmentally unsuitable materials and transported thousands of miles from factory floors to shop shelves.
It is up to fashion brands to develop new ways to conserve resources and drive sustainability at all levels of the business as consumer preferences shift towards sustainable alternatives to fast fashion product lines.
Helene Behrenfeldt, director of fashion strategy at Infor, has worked in a variety of industries and says this challenge is reminiscent of her time there. According to Behrenfeldt, “Fashion is moving towards the way of the food and beverage industry,” with an increased focus on the sustainability of supply chains and the provenance of materials.
She continues, “Regulations on food traceability have been around for years, beginning with identifying the animal and continuing on to the tracking and tracing of food processing.” The fashion industry is following the same path.
Better supply chain visibility and data collection can help ensure that clothing manufacturers adhere to sustainability and transparency principles. The fashion industry is fairly linear in its operations: garments are produced, distributed, worn, and eventually discarded, with only a small fraction of garments being diverted from landfills to reuse and recycling facilities.
In contrast, the goal of “circular fashion” is to extend the useful life of an item of clothing beyond its initial sale. Obviously, this calls for the implementation of cutting-edge designs and manufacturing techniques aimed at extending the product’s useful life. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that by 2030, the $560 billion restoration, resale, repair, customization, and rental market could make circular models, which currently make up less than 4 percent of the global fashion market, responsible for 23 percent.
Sustainable materials are the foundation of circular fashion because they improve the likelihood of the item being recycled after it has been purchased. The fashion label will benefit from efficient use of water and energy throughout the manufacturing process, as well as from careful monitoring of these factors.
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Behrenfeldt argues that in order to provide ways to increase the longevity of products, fashion brands should give more consideration to the services they offer.
Innovations in fast fashion technology
Some businesses have shown remarkable originality in this respect. Swedish denim industry pioneer Nudie Jeans now offers mending and patching services to its clientele. Another example is the Swedish retail giant H&M, which encourages its customers to recycle by proclaiming that they “accept any preloved clothes and textiles for recirculation and recycling” in their stores.
What’s more, “a lot of people throughout the fashion industry are now talking about the need for product passports,” as Behrenfeldt puts it. That “can be as simple as a QR code that sits on the garment, which the customer scans to reveal the product’s life cycle from its creation up to the options to extend use, such as repair or recycle,” the author writes.
If the fashion industry is serious about sustainability, it must also consider ways to optimise its back-end operations. “The tail end is what people overlook,” says Behrenfeldt. There is “the bulk of the environmental impact” there. Investing in novel material sourcing methods and introducing agile software that facilitates inventory tracking and increased production flexibility are necessary for a solution to be found.
Collaboration with outside parties to reduce waste and boost energy efficiency is also crucial. Technology that guarantees full visibility and accountability at all stages of production is essential for such supply chain engagement.
Using Infor’s fashion ERP solution, suppliers can work together more effectively, which guarantees that the next season’s collections are manufactured in a responsible manner. Systems like these are crucial for businesses that want to increase the sustainability and transparency of their supply chains because they can help them learn about their environmental impact, locate sources of waste, and create means for consumers to get more use out of the goods they already own.
According to Behrenfeldt, “these are steps that companies in the fashion industry need to consider.” When asked, “How do you generate no trash?” Since that’s obviously not possible in the fashion industry, producers ought to take whatever measures they can to lessen their effect on the planet, and those measures ought to be made known to shoppers.