Fashion Jam: Consumers need to play their part in sustainable fashion

It might be a bit hypocritical for someone in my business to tell people to shop less, but I’m not without a conscience and I realise that something has to be done about the way we consume.

It’s easy to blame the industry, but it really comes down to the Western consumer: you and me.

A rap from WRAP
Here are some key facts according to WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) about clothes consumption in one such Western country (in this case, the UK) …

The average household owns around 40,000 kroner’s worth of clothes; around 30 percent of the clothing in wardrobes has not been worn for at least a year; the cost of this unused clothing is around 300 billion kroner; extending the average life of clothes by just three months of active use would lead to a 5-10 percent reduction in each of the carbon, water and waste footprints; and an estimated £1.4 billion kroner’s worth (around 350,000 tonnes) of used clothing ends up in the landfill every year.

Given how similar the UK is to Denmark in this area, it’s safe to assume that if you divide those  figures by eleven, you’ll come close to the amount of wastage over here.

Evolving in a smart way
The fashion industry is constantly evolving towards greener practices and products, and most fashion houses today have an organic or recycled line of clothing.

And increasingly, sustainably-minded designers are even shifting their focus away from strictly organic materials (which tend to be basic) in favour of a more holistic approach that takes into account the entire life cycle of a piece of clothing, from its carbon footprint to the livelihood of the workers who made it.

Denmark is one of the most prominent in the race to become a green country when it comes to fashion.  They are bursting forth with ideas and concepts like there’s no tomorrow – clothing exchanges, clothing repairs and even clothing libraries are some of the business concepts that have been recently launched.

Several of the newer Danish companies are green from the moment they start up. One such one is the Danish knitwear company AIAYU, which produces clothes, accessories, cushions and rugs in one material: cashllama. In addition, it actively aims to lengthen the service life of its products, encouraging its customers to send in their favourite clothes for free repair, even if the damage is of their own making.

Environmental and edgy
So is it possible to be on trend and follow fashion without contributing to the
massive wastefulness?

I think it is, and even if fast-fashion isn’t going away anytime soon, perhaps ‘fastuse’ can be more sustainable if we reimagine the business model. We can use garments in a cost-effective and environmentally efficient way without actually owning them. Collaborative consumption, in which people share and crowd-source fashion, may provide a solution.

Online marketplaces for users to swap and share second-hand items without monetary transactions already exist. Shoppers can currently rent high-priced designer fashion from the catwalk thanks to online businesses such as Rent-the- Runway, Style Society and Rent My Rack.

Over two-thirds of the UK population is willing to buy and wear pre-owned clothing, and platforms such as Twice, LKBK and Vestiaire Collective are taking advantage of this growing market. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
Put plainly, even if fashion does clean up its act, unless consumers do the same with their wardrobe habits, then we’re still in the same stinking situation.

As a Swede who spent eleven years in London and New York, coming to Denmark three years ago had its ups and downs for Jenny Egsten-Ericson. Having worked in fashion most of her professional life, Jenny will be giving her opinion on our dress sense: the right choices and the bad ones.