Sustainable fashion in 2021: What are retailers focusing on

The COVID 19 pandemic has given the clothing industry an opportunity to pause, reflect and rethink its future.

It is clear that the pandemic sent the apparel industry into a tailspin in 2020, and while the industry appears to be regaining its footing a year later, sustainability is high on the agenda. The winners in the new post -COVID world will be those who revitalize the idea of sustainability by moving to more circular business models and shifting away from traditional take-and-make waste systems, allowing greater transparency in the supply chain and greater cohesion between brands and suppliers. In view of the accelerating climate crisis, sustainability efforts must remain a central focus of brand strategies.

This article summarizes the key issues retailers need to address to build a better future for people and the planet. Based on research from the US Cotton Trust Protocol 2020, we expect three trends from the garment industry as we move from COVID-19 towards a sustainable future. The events of the past year have shown that the fashion industry will not return to its pre-pandemic process at any mass production level.

Fashion-oriented sustainability voices are looking ahead to the coming year and expect the industry to recognize this reality. In a year when the COVID-19 pandemic has put so much on hold, and the US has experienced an active hurricane season with 30 named hurricanes, the US Cotton Trust has conducted research to better understand the sustainability debate in the industry.

Shoppers want brands to meet their sustainability needs

We know that consumers are increasingly aware of the impact of the fast fashion industry. By enabling consumers to find information for themselves, the education system can teach children sustainability and show them how to develop their interest in fashion. Government reports and pacts can be drawn up to educate students about various aspects of the industry.

Green strategist Dr. Anna Brismar has identified seven main forms of sustainable fashion production and consumption (see illustration). Clothing and other fashion products should be produced and consumed to describe a reality that is not always the case. The following figure shows the seven forms of sustainable fashion from a consumer and producer perspective.

This image presents seven forms of (more) sustainable and circular fashion. The first version was created in 2012 and was later updated in 2016. Created by Dr. Anna Brismar, Green Strategy (Copyright, Green Strategy).

COVID-19 has strengthened demand for sustainable products

In recent years, many major fashion brands have introduced sustainable and socially conscious lines and made bold pledges to reduce their impact, and in this year, we can expect many more to jump onto the sustainability bandwagon. This means that established brands will feel the urge to enter the sustainable fashion market as consumers become more aware and demand that fashion companies produce socially responsible clothing. This demand is only likely to grow, with some studies predicting that the sustainable fashion market will reach $98.1 billion by 2025 and $151.7 billion by 2030.

The traditional concept of sustainable fashion is beginning to change, and one of the biggest sustainable fashion trends of 2021 will be a significant step towards vibrant colors, bold designs and fun patterns. As more shoppers become aware of sustainability brands and environmentally conscious claims, they will move away from greenwashing and other forms of color washing. We will also see many new sustainable brands emerge, with smaller, independent labels taking up more space.

Fashion's harshest critics say the industry is wrong about sustainability. They claim that the industry's approach is elitist, that efforts to improve are too focused and have the wrong priorities. One of the main topics is how to produce products that spark debate, evoke a more profound sense, sensitize consumers to working conditions, fail to meet environmental standards, and blow up the exclusivity and power structures of modern fashion.

The coronavirus pandemic has sent shockwaves worldwide, and the industry is experiencing its worst year on record, with three-quarters of a listed company losing money. The 2021 state of annual fashion report with the international consulting firm McKinsey & Company and renowned online fashion platform Business of Fashion (BOF), states that this year will be full of challenges for fashion companies.

Brands and retailers are changing practices throughout their supply chains

While many good things happened in sustainable fashion in 2020, the COVID 19 crisis has led to a fundamental change in consumer behavior. In September, Alexander McQueen explored various sustainable strategies and launched the MCQ fashion line, with distinctions such as clothing labels and blockchain technology proving authenticity. It looks like conscious shoppers will continue to push brands to produce greener and more responsible clothing.

The United Nations Alliance for Sustainable Fashion is an initiative by UN agencies and allied organizations to contribute to Sustainable Development Goals and coordinate measures in the fashion sector. Alexander McQueen, who has researched various sustainable strategies, has become the first house to work with Vestiaire Collective on a new brand-approved program where they will contact a small number of customers and offer them the opportunity to sell their McQueen pieces in exchange for credits in the store. A new innovative collaborative platform, MyMCQ, integrates fashion technology that enables consumers to interact, engage, tag and locate clothing, as part of an initiative to anticipate the resale potential of fashion pieces, facilitated by a trading community and peer-to-peer platform.

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