Over the past few years, consumers have become increasingly aware of the darker sides of the fashion industry. There is no debate about the fact that our industry is a major source of pollution and is known for exhausting important natural resources. In fact, the industry produces 20 percent of the global water waste and 10 percent of carbon emissions. The fast fashion industry is dependent on synthetic fibers which are producing an insurmountable amount of non-biodegradable waste. Thankfully, questions regarding sustainability are being raised today at large, while there is still time to address and neutralize the threat.
It has been universally acknowledged that technology can (and will if implemented) solve the sustainability struggles. Many brands have been exploring ways to install green technology in their production processes as well as in the supply chain. This retake on the traditional system will help mitigate the inventory waste and also tackle energy consumption issues.
Recent studies suggest that at least three out of five consumers today ask about the sustainability of the product before making a purchase. The industry has to adapt to this shift in consumer behavior by offering them what they want. As a response to this, recycling and upcycling have gained momentum in the past couple of years. Sustainable fashion marketplaces like Vinted, Poshmark, and Depop have emerged to address the demands for sustainability.
Eco-conscious companies have already started making changes to incorporate the spirit of sustainability within their brands. They have started installing technology that can solve their sustainability struggles over time. The made-to-order model, for instance, helps to produce only the pieces for which orders have been placed. Consumers can place orders based on digital catalogs and have their products custom-made. Brands following this model no longer need to worry about dead stocks.
Sampling is an important step in the manufacturing process which often generates a lot of fabric wastage when multiple prototypes are created before one is finalized. However, the introduction of 3D sampling has helped reduce waste generation in recent years where samples can be created and reviewed digitally without wasting a single inch of fabric. Besides, now that people are more aware of the environment and climate change than before, a shift towards alternative textiles is more visible now. Natural fabric is more sought after for achieving an organic way of life. Eco-friendly textiles are also being developed from recycled fibers and agricultural wastes. Brands like COS and H&M have chosen to use Cuproor Cuprammonium rayon, a fabric that is produced from cotton linter and waste from a cotton plant, through a closed-loop technology.
Despite these measures, we are far from achieving ideal conditions because the market continues to be flooded with cheaper synthetic alternatives. However, the usage of automation in production is somewhat helping to combat the situation. Usage of automation in manufacturing procedures helps reduce wastage generation up to 80 percent and makes the process faster and cost-effective. Sewbots for instance can prepare design cutouts without fabric wastage. Also, there is a lesser need for transportation with these machines since production is made possible right on the unit floor.
Apart from these developments, attempts are also being made to switch to greener sources of energy to solve the industry’s energy consumption issues. Windmills, biogas plants, and solar panels are among the various available choices but we’re yet to see a radical shift in that direction. Solar panels are notably the most convenient option, relatively easier to install and maintain. The good news is that both brands and manufacturers can install solar power units to power their offices, stores, or plants, paving the way for a more secure and eco-friendly world.
Lastly, it is also worth noting that the fashion industry’s increasing reliance on data for production decisions is also helping the industry to become more sustainable. Having a preconceived idea about the market actually helps in optimizing the whole manufacturing process by eliminating overproduction. The prediction of the trends, upcoming or fading, offers brands the scope to either boost or pull down the production. Production optimization based on real-time data is, as such, one of the key innovations in technology that can help in prioritizing sustainability today by countering overproduction. With all of these innovations and efforts in place, we can hope that a green future awaits us.