Written by: Meaghan Pitura | 5 min read
The fashion industry has been deemed the third most polluting industry in the world. With 80-100 million tonnes of clothing being produced each year and 92 million tons ending up in landfills, it’s clear that something must change. Companies have been trying innovative and unique ways to lower the industry’s environmental impact, from textiles to shipping methods. With that being said, here are some of the latest sustainability-related trends making a difference in the fashion industry.
Clothing Rental Services
Have you ever purchased an expensive dress for an event knowing you’ll likely never wear it again? Do you want to be able to wear designer handbags but are stuck living on a student budget? Do you constantly buy new clothes to keep up with short-lived fashion trends? If you’ve answered yes to those questions, clothing rental services might be your new best friend.
Clothing rental services are becoming an increasingly popular method of second-hand consumption, a sector that is expected to double to about 34 billion euros by 2025. These services allow consumers to rent clothing items for a set period of time for a fraction of the original price. This helps to reduce overconsumption and extend the life of clothing items by allowing multiple consumers to use and enjoy the product rather than just being owned and worn by a single consumer before disposal. Clothing rental services are not just an alternative for consumption; they may become the future of shopping. Research shows that Gen Z consumers care more about using an item than owning it themselves, making this service extremely attractive to younger consumers.
There are already countless subscription services on the market targeted at various consumers, generally operating through a one-time rental or subscription.
Nuuly is a subscription-based clothing rental service that allows subscribers to borrow six items at a time from stores like Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and Free People. They cater their offerings to each user’s unique style through a constantly improving algorithm.
Vivrelle is a subscription-based rental service focusing on jewelry and handbags from high-end brands like Gucci, Cartier, and Bottega Veneta. This service is perfect for those who want a glamorous lifestyle on a budget, with subscription tiers starting at as low as $45 per month.
EU Digital Product Passport
Do you ever wonder if the companies you purchase from are sincere regarding their claims about their “sustainable” production methods and materials? Well, pretty soon, consumers living within EU countries will no longer have to be skeptical of the behind-the-scenes practices of their favourite brands.
The European Union is working on releasing a Digital Product Passport, a new method encouraging companies to be transparent about the products they create. Once set in place, companies must compile and share the data they collect from every step of every product’s lifecycle. The Digital Product Passport will essentially be a “digital twin” of the original product, accessed through scanning the product’s barcode/affiliated QR code.
In the end, the Digital Product Passport aims to bring sustainability and accountability to the fore of the fashion industry with hopes of improving environmental issues like pollution, microplastic usage, and deforestation.
Using animal products to create leathers and fabrics creates ethical and environmental consequences, while using the current synthetic materials creates additional (and worse) environmental concerns. It’s clear that the existing significant materials used in the fashion industry are not here to stay; newer technology is needed to make fashion more sustainable.
Next-gen materials are non-plastic, non-synthetic, and vegan materials that will be an effective alternative to currently used products without the environmental consequences. There are already a variety of Next-Gen materials in the works, using pineapple, algae, soy, rose petals, and mushrooms. These materials can mimic those currently used in the industry or present themselves as a fresh, new material. Many companies like Nike, Crocs, and Lululemon are already expressing interest in these new materials.
The demand for these materials has been overwhelming to the point that there is more demand from investors than the supply of materials to invest in. Clearly, the general population sees the value in these materials and recognizes them as the future of fashion.
One of the most noteworthy materials is mushroom leather.
Mushroom leather is created using mycelium, a part of the branching structure in fungi. The growing process takes about 2-3 weeks, and the waste in the production process can be used as fertilizer. On top of that, consumer waste can be used to “feed” the mushrooms in the process. Mycelium can later be transformed into many different types of leather, from cow to alligator.
One of the longer-running trends on the list, sustainable packaging, is another way companies have reduced their footprint. With the rise of e-commerce and online shopping, there has never been more of a demand for sustainable packaging. This not only includes the use of shipping boxes but all other types of “stuffing” and plastics included in the process.
Recently, with the ban of plastic shopping bags, companies have started implementing paper shopping bags for customer use. Many of these bags are made with recycled and compostable materials. However, it is important to take note of greenwashing brands that misuse terms like “compostable” and “biodegradable.”
Companies are also making their packaging more sustainable by reducing the amount of materials involved. This includes eliminating excess plastics and related materials in the packaging of materials. Companies are also finding ways to reuse their packaging to ship products to customers.
Repack is an award-winning company dedicated to creating reusable packaging to ship parcels. This packaging can be used multiple times for multiple different purposes for multiple different customers. Their packaging is extremely easy to use and return to the sender.
The industry still has a long way to go in finding innovative approaches to sustainable packaging, but it is essential to recognize the progress made in the past few years. From compostable and biodegradable packaging to reusable packaging, companies are definitely in the process of reducing their environmental impact.
This article outlined just a few of the countless ways companies are moving towards more sustainable business practices. With the continuous demand from consumers, policy-making organizations, and governments to reduce carbon emissions and move towards a greener future, we can only imagine what trends will come next. It is important to remember one thing - the future of fashion is sustainable.
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Keiderling, G., & Bennett Parker, A. (2024, January 9). 8 fashion rental services to consider for a stylish year. Vogue. https://www.vogue.com/article/clothing-rental-subscription
Okie, S. (2021, October 6). These materials are replacing animal-based products in the fashion industry. World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/10/these-materials-are-replacing-animal-based-products-in-the-fashion-industry/
Plasencia, J. (2023, September 20). The world’s most polluting industries. ClimateTrade. https://climatetrade.com/the-worlds-most-polluting-industries/
Rossow, A. (2023, August 23). EU’s Digital Product Passport Targets Sustainable Fashion. NFT Now. https://nftnow.com/news/european-union-digital-product-passport-fashion-sustainability/
Saxon, K. (2020, October). Mushroom Leather is more than a sustainable alternative to animal skin. Fibre2Fashion. https://www.fibre2fashion.com/industry-article/8805/mushroom-leather-is-more-than-a-sustainable-alternative-to-animal-skin#:~:text=Mushroom%20leather%20is%20a%20vegan,the%20group%20of%20eukaryotic%20organisms.
The Contributors of Recover. (2023, July 10). Digital product passport: The next step for textiles and fashion. Recover. https://recoverfiber.com/newsroom/digital-product-passport#:~:text=The%20European%20Commission%20defines%20the,to%20end%2Dof%2Dlife