Sustainable fashion: What will we wear in the future?

Sustainable fashion: What will we wear in the future?

“There’s a lot of focus on climate change and in order for us to meet goals set by the Paris Agreement, one out of five garments needs to be sold via a circular economy or business model by 2030,” said Amanda Rushforth, a TED speaker and sustainable fashion advocate. “It’s the only way to ensure that we aren’t overproducing fast fashion and are more focused on using natural, biodegradable fibers.”

Story Highlights:

  • Every morning, it is the same cycle: What do I wear? This question becomes nuanced when we consider how technology, social media and climate change will affect fashion in the future. It is no longer a consideration of trends, but a matter of long-term sustainability.

  • She added that one-tenth of the world’s carbon footprint comes from the fast fashion industry — more than that of shipping and aviation combined.

So it is reassuring to see that sustainable fashion is actually having a real moment in MENA. Startups are springing up in this space, such as the Dubai-based Chasing the Sun Collective: A new swimwear brand dedicated to sustainability. The owner and creator of the brand, Sue Salleh-Kobeleva, designed collections using fabric made from ECONYL nylon fibers, regenerated from waste such as discarded fishing nets. Chasing the Sun Collective is one of the first UAE businesses to join One Percent for the Planet, a global network of businesses, individuals and nonprofit organizations tackling Earth’s most pressing environmental issues.

“The transition toward responsible and sustainable fashion needs designers, activists, crafts people, engineers, business people, accountants and people who have expertise in AI and data-driven design, accounting and blockchain,” said Claire Lerpiniere, a senior lecturer in textile design at De Montfort University, UK, who took part in a talk on sustainable fashion at Expo 2020’s UK Pavilion. “The more we collaborate, the more impact our work can have collectively, rather than individually.”

Students are challenged to create fashion out of recyclable materials and items that are often labeled as “junk” for a contest in 2022.

Sara Hamdan

Lerpiniere added that fewer than 1 percent of all garments are recycled, with most ending up in landfill sites.
A handful of brands have been active in the sustainable fashion space over the last year. Founded in 2019, Only Ethikal is a dedicated sustainable fashion e-commerce platform that rolls out seasonal collections. Only Ethikal follows ethical trade guidelines and works with brands that ensure fair wages for skilled artisans. All pieces are made using 100 percent biodegradable material, keeping environmental impacts in mind.

“Launched just before the outbreak of the second wave of COVID-19, the designers have been very proactive in creating styles that are ethically produced and bring a smile to wearers,” says Deepthi Chandran Joyau, founder of the platform.
Even Namshi, the established e-commerce platform that houses more than 700 brands and operates across the region, is moving towards sustainability. Last month, it launched Namshi x Hana & Moha’s athleisure collection, which is “all about fostering change and calling it fashion.” Last year, Namshi became the first retailer in the region to collaborate with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, testing hybrid vehicles in the UAE and Saudi Arabia to reduce carbon emissions, and using recycled packaging.

“In order to make an impact on our planet, we must realize that not all trash is waste. In fact, we should view it as ‘raw material’ that has the potential to create something new and wonderful,” said Troy Armour, CEO of Junk Kouture. “Together with our participating students, we hope to create the circular economy engineers of tomorrow and spread this message further, and more powerfully, than ever before.”
• Sara Hamdan is a former Merrill Lynch banker, NYT journalist and editor at Google. She writes on startups, women in business and post-COVID-19 work trends.

Educating youth is also essential; global initiatives like Junk Kouture, the world’s largest sustainable fashion program for youth, officially debuted in the UAE last month. Students are challenged to create fashion out of recyclable materials and items that are often labeled as “junk” for a contest in 2022. Founded in Ireland in 2010, The Junk Kouture World Tour aims to reach 13 cities by the end of 2023, with a 10-year goal of impacting the lives of 1 billion young people across the globe by 2032.
It is not just up to the retailers: A consolidated effort among stakeholders is also key to reaching sustainability goals. The Middle East Green Initiative Summit in Saudi Arabia today brought together leaders of government, academia and business to discuss the impact of climate change — and ethical fashion was on the agenda.

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